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Full text of "god guides your tomorrows"

BE CONFIDENT 
THAT GOD 
IS LEADING 
YOUR LIFE 



RDgBrCPaliTis 



InterVarsity Press 

DOWNERS GROVE, ILUNOIS 60515 



Revised edition ®1987 by Roger C. Palms 

First edition ®2976 by Augsburg Publishing House. 

Originally published under the title God Holds Your Tomorrows. 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form 
without written permission from InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers 
Grove, IL 60515. 

InterVarsity Press is the book-publishing division of InterVarsity Christian 
Fellowship, a student movement active on campus at hundreds of universities, 
colleges and schools of nursing. For information about local and regional 
activities, write Public Relations Dept., InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, 6400 
SchroederRd, P.O. Box 7895, Madison, WI 53707-7895. 

Distributed in Canada through InterVarsity Press, 860 Denison St., Unit 3, 
Markham, Ontario L3R 4H1, Canada. 

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are from the Holy Bible, 
New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, International Bible 
Society. Used by permission ofZondervan Bible Publishers. 

Cover photograph: Robert Cushman Hayes 

ISBN 0-87784-572-7 

Printed in the United States of America 

ISbnry of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data 

Palms, Roger C. 
Cod guides your tomorrows. 

Previous ed. published as: Cod holds your 
tomorrows. 1976. 

I God-- Will. 2. Christian life—mo- 
L Title. 

BV4501.2.P319 1986 248.4 86-27688 
ISBN 0-87784-572-7 



This special edition is published with permission from the original 
publisher, InterVarsity Press. 



1 A Reason for Me 6 



2 What Does God Want from Me Anyway? 19 



3 When the Signals Get Blurred 31 



4 Sometimes I Get Angry with God 47 



5 / Seem to Have a Talent 
for Making a Mess of Things 63 



6 What about My Tomorrows? 73 



7 Peace— Getting It and Keeping It 81 



8 A Second Look 90 



Preface 

The question keeps coming up. 

Probably because it's too important to ignore. Get a 
group of serious Christians together and someone will 
ask: "How can I know the will of God for my life?" 

For years— first as a pastor ministering to students at 
Rutgers and Douglass, then as a campus minister at 
Michigan State University, and now as a magazine ed- 
itor and teacher— I've been asked that same question. 
It isn't a light question. It comes out of an honest 
yearning to know. Those years of walking on campus 
late at night with a searching student, of talking with 
questioning high-school students, of counseling adults, 
of listening to the struggling, the hurting, the sensitive 



PREFACE 



5 



wonderer, have led to the writing of this book. And, as 
Fve worked on this manuscript, people have commented 
on the need for it, encouraging me as I went along. 

"How can I know the will of God for my life?" is too 
critical a question to go unanswered. Thousands of 
Christians really want to know, "Does God hold my 
tomorrows?" 

You may be one of those who are asking. 

You're the reason for this book. 



1 



A Reason 
for Me 



ZXO far as Vm concerned, when God made me he 
made a big mistake." 

She was sitting on the floor when she said it, the 
fireplace casting the only light over the seven other 
people in the room. They couldn't see her well, but they 
could see the tears glistening. 

Two attempts at suicide underscored what she was 
saying— still, no one responded to her. Later, four of the 
others said that they couldn't respond because they 
were feeling the same way about themselves. So do 
some of us. 

Is there a reason for me? In the whole scope of the 
world, with life as confusing as it is, what did God have 
in mind when he made me? As a matter of fact, I wonder 



A REASON FOR ME 



7 



if God had anything in mind at all. 

In this confusing conglomeration of ideas and 
dreams, weaknesses and moods called life, is there any- 
thing of value about me or for me? 

Something happens to me when I ask those ques- 
tions. There comes a feeling, an awe, an awareness. I am 
asking about me, and the only one who can answer my 
questions shows me by my very asking that he has, or 
is himself, the answer. If God is God, with no limits to 
his knowledge or understanding, then there is a reason 
for me and he knows what it is. 

Don't Argue with God 

God's omnipotence didn't collapse when I was con- 
ceived. His mouth didn't drop open in surprise the day 
I was bom. In the whole arrangement of things, I fit. 
If there is a question left at all, it is not, '^Do I belong 
here?" It is rather, ''How do I belong?" 

God knows who I am, what I am and why he put me 
here. I am no accident. Sometimes, though, it is tough 
to grasp. At least it is until I lean back for a moment, 
shut my eyes and reflect. 

No one was around to argue or disagree when God 
created the first man and woman. No one heard his 
pronouncemient about them. God repeated it for the 
writer of Genesis because he wanted us to know. What 
he said about us, his aeation, is not an observation to 
argue. It is a statement of fact. God looked at the ones 
he made, the crowning of his creation, and pronounced 
them "good." He must have meant what he said. 

Yet some of us want to argue with him now. 

A man looks at his racquetball partner and wishes he 



8 



GOD GUIDES YOUR TOMORROWS 



could have the same physique. 

A woman screams at God because she is lonely, then 
becomes silent, withdrawn. 

A school dropout takes two more tranquilizers and 
mutters about his lack of opportunity. Two old men 
open a bottle and talk about what might have been. 

Yet, the Word of God still stands: God likes what he 
made. "That's good," he said when he made the first 
man and woman, and there is no evidence in all the 
centuries since that he has ever changed his mind- 
even when he made each of us. 

Getting You Here 

Think for a minute about all that God did to get you 
here. In the universal plan of God, with all the people 
in the world whom he might have created, he specifi- 
cally, purposely, knowingly, brought together our great- 
grandparents and grandparents and parents to put to- 
gether the selected combination of talents, features and 
mental gifts to make us what we are. 
We are not mistakes. 

But wait. Is this also true for the person whose par- 
ents didn't want him, for the one who is the product of 
a mistake or a crime? Did God know? Did he plan it? 

God alone can answer the mystery of his own knowl- 
edge. He alone knows how to bring good out of what 
to human minds seems catastrophic. And we know that 
he does. 

Our questions about how God can know and plan 
good from something we call evil aren't usually bal- 
anced by the opposite questions— but they should be: 
How can it be that God can bring together committed 



A REASON FOR ME 



9 



Christians to produce a bright and attractive child, to 
love that child and raise him in the nurture and admo- 
nition of the Lord, only to see him throw it all over, to 
reject it all for the wretchedness of an existence apart 
from God? But it happens. Ideal examples of the "plan 
of God" crumble just as often as examples of poor pos- 
sibilities become God's trophies of blessing and grace. 

The only conclusion is, God never meets the unex- 
pected, God knows and God loves. When these affirma- 
tions come together in our minds, we can turn back to 
the assurance that "there are no surprises with God." No 
one of us is an exception to that. In God's ovm moment 
of time he put us here, a perfect combination of all that , 
he intended us to be. 

What would your life have been if you had lived five 
hundred years ago in Mongolia, or even today in regions 
of the Sahara? Ask yourself what divine intervention 
made you what you are and put you where you are 
now— in this place at this time. The "chance" factor is 
staggering. What God has done, God has done. What he 
has allowed, he has allowed. What he will do, he will 
do. His will is both creative and permissive. God knows 
what he is doing! 

He Is Not Confused by Us 

Tm unique. You are too. I'm here now, in this time and 
place, and you are where you are, and God is not con- 
fused by our presence. 

When that thought begins to dawn on people, the 
results are interesting to watch. Slowly, like a flower in 
the sunshine, people begin to unfold. They take another 
look. 



10 



COD GUIDES YOUR TOMORROWS 



Joni Eareckson Tada became a paraplegic when she 
was a teen-ager. Since then she has become an artist 
and singer with a ministry called ''Joni and Friends." 
She was absolutely right when she told a group of jour- 
nalists, ''With God, less is more." 

A schoolteacher in England cannot use his hands. He 
is also blind. His crippling illness came just as he was 
preparing for college studies. But through his suffering, 
he came to recognize that God is God. He came to a 
trusting faith and says, after years of suffering and strug- 
gle, that he is a contented teacher, pleased that he can 
help others and support himself. "The day I paid my first 
taxes was a very happy day for me." 

A young widow, deciding that God knew what was 
happening when she was left to support two little girls, 
trained herself as a writer so she wouldn't have to leave 
home to work. Today she is still being regularly pub- 
lished—in her eighties. 

This Package Called Me Is Free 

For nearly all of us the awareness that God is God and 
has a reason for our existence and has put together the 
package that is called me and likes what he made and 
wants to develop and fulfill what he has made as a 
unique and special individual, has led us to something 
deeper than personal, social or vocational changes— it 
has led to a totally new life. 

For centuries, Christian believers have known what 
some of us are only beginning to discover: that the 
biblical word salvation means ft-eedom. Salvation is a 
picture word— it is like breaking out of a box or cell and 
running ft-ee on the beach. It is liberation that touches 



A REASON FOR ME 



11 



and transforms every dimension of our being. 

It is life as God meant it to be. 

Still, the majority of people in the world don't yet 
know that. Sadly, they are like square pegs in round 
holes. 

They are created by God, but they don't know God. 
They live in a world that he made, but are out of har- 
mony with him as their maker. They function as best 
they can by the natural laws established by a teacher 
who understands all things, without knowing the teach- 
er. They have many of the expressions of God's love, but 
not God the source. 

But it is not that way for those of us who respond to 
the liberator— Jesus Christ. In him we find a new rela- 
tionship centered in all that God is. We meet the source, 
the teacher, the creator— God! 

Liberated persons know that God has made them ex- 
actly the way he wants them— in a manner that is pleas- 
ing to him— then offers wholeness and fulfillment 
through the saving work of Jesus Christ. 

Alive to Begin 

People like to say, 'I'm saved! Praise God! The old has 
gone, the new has come!" And that's true. But it's true 
in the same way that birth is new. When anyone is at 
last alive in Christ Jesus, he is alive to begin. He doesn't 
work for his salvation. That's a gift:. But he does work 
out the implications of his salvation ''with fear and 
trembling" (Phil 2:12). 

That's a long process— it never ends. Day by day we 
bring more and more of our lives under the searching 
gaze of Christ. The purity, the compassion, the indwell- 



12 



GOD GUIDES YOUR TOMORROWS 



ing power of God pokes and prods farther and farther 
into our lives showing us day after day additional as- 
pects of ourselves that need to be cleansed and made 
new. And we see, because God makes us see, that there 
is still more of ourselves to yield to him. 

That's part of maturing in Christ. We are both com- 
plete and growing. We are his, yet are always becoming 
more like him as we come into his fullness. We take 
from the fullness of the one who wants to be in all that 
we are now and all that we are yet to be. 

In the new birth the vise grip of sin that once had us 
bound tight, that kept us separated from God, is broken. 
All of the uncertainties ('"Where did I come from?" '"Why 
am I here?" "Where am I going?") are ready for a new 
evaluation. We're free to develop, free to be in harmony 
with the one who created us, saved us and loves us. 

That's almost too much to comprehend. 

A Very Intimate Word 

This relationship is so different from anything else we 
know, and such a change from what we once were, that 
the only explanation of it is the biblical one— it is a 
moving out of darkness into light. Attempting to ex- 
plain this, St. Paul used an Aramaic word that can't 
quite be translated, but it does communicate a feeling. 
To everyone who through the atoning work of Jesus 
Christ moves out of the place of tension and antagonism 
into a place of harmony with God, there is given the 
privilege of calling CodiAbba. It means "Father." 

Only Abba is a more intimate word for Father. The 
closest the English language comes is a reverent "my 
daddy." 



A REASON FOR ME 



13 



Some people, offended at this translation, argue that 
such a word is sacrilegious. And, if it is used without 
the proper awe of God, it is. But to anyone who worships 
God, it is a descriptive term that means love, security 
and peace. To those who understand, the cry Abba is 
like coming home. 

Debbie was nineteen when she came home. She did 
trust Jesus as her Savior, but even so she was bringing 
with her an uneasy lifetime of unhappy experiences 
with men. Arnd it was hard for her to forget. 

She felt dirty inside. She struggled with guilt. She 
knew that she had been cleansed and was pure in 
Christ, yet she still felt that she could not live the new 
life that she had just received. She could not hold up 
her head and proclaim, 'Tm a Christian." There were 
too many scars on her soul. 

No one had yet explained to her what spiritual adop- 
tion means. Then one day a new friend, a Christian, did. 

Very tenderiy he asked, ''Debbie, if God is your father 
and he is my father, what does that make you and me?" 

She knew, of course. 'That makes us brother and 
sister." It was a small step but already a new awareness 
was coming over this much-experienced young woman. 
Her new brother didn't stop there. 

"Now let me show you something else. If God is your 
father and he is Lord and King, what does that make 
you?" 

She thought for a minute and then a smile slowly 
pushed against the edges of her mouth. "I guess that 
would make me the King's daughter— I'm a princess!" 

"Exactly! Now go live what you are." 

And she is. 



14 



COD GUIDES YOUR TOMORROWS 



A Price Tag 

Jeff came from a different direction but still he was a lot 
like Debbie. He didn't know what he was worth. From 
childhood he had been reminded of his failures. He had 
come to believe that he was a failure. Even becom.ing 
a Christian hadn't done much to alter his inferiority 
complex. He still tended to keep to the edges, away from 
other people, and hold onto his conviction that he 
wasn't as capable as others— not in doing, not in think- 
ing, not even in loving. Because he believed this, it kept 
him bound up, unable to try the life that God had given 
him. 

Then through careful study of the Scriptures and lis- 
tening to Christians around him, he gained a new in- 
sight. Slowly, what he has been learning is altering his 
attitude about himself. He is starting to reach out and 
people are responding to him. 

What made the difference? He has an explanation, 
something he learned. '1 have a price tag on me, just 
like anything else that is up for redemption. And that 
price tag says, 'Jesus Christ.' " 

"Do you want to know what I'm worth to God the 
Father? I'm worth the price he paid for me— I'm worth 
Jesus. If you can tell me the worth of Jesus, I'll tell you 
what I am worth, because Jesus is the price God paid 
for me." And with a contented smile Jeff adds, ''And God 
knew what he was buying!" 

A Man Called Happy 

Some people scoff at Jeffs simplicity, but most don't. 
They've been wondering about their worth too. Finding 
out how much God loves us is like going through a 



A REASON FOR ME 



15 



doorway. It opens out to a whole new world. 

A few years ago in a rescue mission in the Midwest, 
a man called Happy sat on an organ bench and began 
to play. It was early. People from the streets hadn't 
started to drift in yet. But that was just as well, because 
he had a story to tell. 

"I was fifty-nine years old and tired. I didn't want to 
play the organ anymore. I felt weary and restless at the 
same time. A lot of years had gone by since I became 
a professional. In those days I thought that what I really 
wanted out of life was fame and the chance to earn a 
lot of money. 

''Well, I was earning the money, but I didn't want it! 
I just wanted to quit. I was sick of performing, bored 
with my music and disgusted with my own jokes. 

"So I asked the casino manager in Nevada, where I 
was playing the organ, if I could cancel my last week. 
He said, 'No, stay on. You're drawing the crowds.' 

"I finished that week, did a two-week stint at a small 
supper club in Twin Falls, Idaho, simply as a favor to 
a friend, and then moved on to Spokane, Washington. 
When I got there, I took a room and did nothing. 

"I knew something was happening in my life, but I 
couldn't put my finger on it. All I knew for sure was that 
the things I once wanted didn't satisfy me anymore. I 
had a talent for music and a miserable life. 

"One Saturday I went to see a Christian businessman 
I knew in the city and blurted out what for me was a 
strange plea: 'I need prayer.' 

"As far as I can remember it was the first time that 
I had ever asked anyone to pray for me. 

"We got down on our knees in the basement of his 



16 



GOD GUIDES YOUR TOMORROWS 



Store and prayed. I was crying my heart out because I 
needed God in my life and I knew it. A lot was settled 
in that basement that day. I knew I was a new creation." 

Coming to the Lord was like moving into the stream 
of God's purposes. For Happy, everything that he had, 
including his gift for playing the organ, came into fo- 
cus. The anxiety was gone. 

"The next afternoon, I went to see the superintend- 
ent of the Gospel mission and asked him if he would like 
to have me play at the services. 

"He said, 'We'd love to have you.' 

"That was Sunday. The following Wednesday, as I 
was on my way out of the hotel, I got a telephone call 
from a club manager asking me to do a Gay Nineties' 
routine at a new place he was opening. I knew I could 
do it. I'm big. I look like a bartender. But I told him I 
was going to play at the mission. He congratulated me. 
That surprised me. Here was a man who wanted me to 
play for him and he was congratulating me for refusing 
his offer. 

"I'm in my seventies now, and I've been playing in 
missions around the country for more than thirteen 
years. When I was younger, I always looked down on 
missions. I thought the people there were just a bunch 
of winos. I didn't have any compassion. I just assumed 
that it was their hard luck. 

"But now I like to go over to the mission about a half 
hour before the evening meeting begins and play as the 
people come in. I notice that when I'm playing a quiet- 
ness comes over them and they respond to it. It softens 
them. They like to hear me play. That pleases me." 

It's a new world when we discover who we are, why 



A REASON FOR ME 



17 



we have been made, and why we were put here on this 
earth. Some of us find it out early, others— like Hap- 
py—find it late. But what matters is that we do find it 
and begin to experience life in its multidimensional 
fullness— satisfying and abundant. 

Each of us can then declare with certainty: 

"Fm no accident." 

"I fit into God^s plan." 

"I belong." 

"God has a reason for me." 

There is relief and there is purpose in discovering 
that. Most of all there is peace. It is a peace that comes 
from knowing with unswerving certainty, "I have been 
created for a reason. I am offered a life to live by the One 
who understands the reason for my being." 

No One Else Has My Fingerprints 

In the whole pattern of the universe, God made only one 
person like me. Just as no one else has my fingerprints, 
so no one else can be the person I am. God designed me 
to be special. 

So much unnecessary struggle continues when we 
refuse God and refuse to fit into life as God meant it to 
be. When we could be whole, we remain fragmented. 
When we could know the will of God for our lives, some 
of us won't even acknowledge that there is a will of God. 

Those who hold back, who still refuse to transfer their 
trust from themselves to the Son of God, still wonder 
in the thoughtful moments of their lives— **Why me?" 

But for those who look to him, yield and find their 
true selves, the fears of now and the future start to go. 
The uncertainties about personal worth give way to the 



18 



COD GUIDES YOUR TOMORROWS 



exhilarating, "Look who I am." 

When that happens, the reason for living becomes 
what the apostle Paul called "Christ in you, the hope 
of glory" (Col 1:27). Then at last the words of Jesus 
make sense: "I came that they may have life, and have 
it abundantly" (Jn 10:10 RSV). 

Aimless drifting changes to purpose. Questions that 
once tore us apart at last start to get answered. Life's 
pieces start to fit together and the once confusing mix 
called existence begins to jell. The content of Psalm 139 
makes sense. The prospects for each of us become un- 
limited and exciting. 

It is no longer, "Why am I here?" but, "I am here and 
I am his." 



2 



What Does God 
Want from Me 
Anyway? 



A I ^ w meant well. 

Before Ron^d Judy were married, they talked about 
serving Christ in the inner city. They wanted to work 
among the poor, teach Bible classes to children and 
help adults find new dignity in Christ. 

But now, eighteen years later in a grassy suburb, they 
are so locked into mortgage payments, credit purchases 
and the need to keep comfortable employee fringe ben- 
efits that they can't move. Ron says, 'I'm three weeks 
from bankruptcy. I can't even afford to get sick. I'm so 
overextended that when I go to bed at night I lie awake 
with money pressures on my mind." Then he adds, 'The 
worst part of it is, we are no longer available." Once, 
with a promise to obey, they both asked, "What does 



20 



GOD GLIDES YOUR TOMORROW 



God want to do with me?" Neither one of them asks that 
question anymore. They are owned. 

Lenny is twenty years old. He is owned by heroin. He 
calls it ''my medicine." 

Christians have talked with him about following Je- 
sus but it doesn't do any good. He says, "I am following 
Jesus.'^ He thinks he's all right— it's the other Chris- 
tians who don't understand, he says. "I'm high-strung, 
my nerves are bad— this is my medication." Then he 
rationalizes, ''Nobody gets upset with a diabetic who 
takes insulin. No one tells him to stop taking it. Why 
am I so different? Why can't God use me the way I am? 
What does God want from me anyway?" 

Well, what does God want? If I am a disciple, a fol- 
lower of Jesus, then in one clear statement Jesus gives 
me the answer to my question. He says, "Blessed rather 
are those who hear the word of God and obey it" (Lk 
11:28). 

God Wants Obedience 

It's my business to find out what God wants of me and 
then do what he says. God wants obedience— not suc- 
cess, not prestige or power, not anything but obedience. 
Read the "Hall of Fame" list in Hebrews 11. It is a roster 
of obedient people. 

But most of us tend to become a little soft on obe- 
dience. We leak out at the edges. We follow Christ in 
intermittent spurts. And soon it is with a tinge of an- 
noyance that we demand: "What does God want from 
me anyvv'ay?" 

What God wants isn't based so much on doing, al- 
though that's the measurable part of obedience. It's be- 



WHAT DOES GOD WANT FROM ME ANYWAY? 



21 



ing. God wants me to be what he created me to be, and 
to be in the place where he can lead me. Being in Christ 
means having him in us— doing, acting, working 
through us— so that even though we can only measure 
the doing, it is built on the being. Like Enoch of old 
our contribution to life and the world around us comes 
not from ourselves— it comes, when all is said and done, 
because we "walked with God'' (Gen 5:24). 

To be is to live— and living in Christ means being in 
Christ. Like the vine and the branches, being means to 
be so closely attached that the life-giving energy of the 
vine flows through the branches and the branches bear 
fruit (see Jn 15:4). Abiding means "having the eyes of 
your hearts enlightened." It means knowing "the hope 
to which he has called you," having "the riches of his 
glorious inheritance in the saints," and "the immeasur- 
able greatness of his power in us" (Eph 1:18-19 RSV). 

Abiding is natural for people alive in Christ. "If 
anyone is in Christ he is a new creation" (2 Cor 5:17). 
And, how do we measure that or test it? The Bible says, 
"By their fruit you will recognize them" (Mt 7:16). God 
will be in us as we abide in him. The result is the fruit 
of that abiding: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, 
goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Gal 
5:22-23). The question is not, will he give all of that to 
me? The question is, will I abide? It isn't weakness to 
admit that on my own I can't abide in him. Only his new 
nature in me makes that possible. He helps me. An 
abiding Christian knows that. 

Are the Fences Too High? 

Maturity in Christ means agreeing with God that I am 



22 



COD GUIDES YOUR TOMORROWS 



a straying sheep who needs controls. It's an understand- 
ing. It is a confession that I know myself. Most of all 
it is an admission that God knows me too. After thirty 
years of obedience, the apostle Paul still knew that 
struggle. He said, "I do not understand what I do. For 
what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And 
if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law 
is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but 
it is sin living in me" (Rom 7:15-17). 

For all of us, that struggle will go on as long as we 
live. It is a tension, but just as tension is effective in 
body building, so it is in spirit building. God gave us 
laws to obey. They are guides, built on the structure of 
his own great love. To be his follower is to be obedient 
to him and live within the boundaries of his laws. 

But for some, the legal boundaries of God's love look 
like fences, and they seem to be too high. When I want 
God but not his commands, I may ask, "What does God 
want from me?" But he knows— and I know too— 
whether I really want to find out. He knows whether I 
am just saying words or if I do want to be a disciple. 
Some people say it, but they don't mean it. 

On the East Coast a young woman asked her pastor, 
"Why can't I find the will of God for my life?" The pastor 
can't help her, though he tries. The reason he can't is 
that she rejects every suggestion he makes. In fact, she 
is living two lives. iMost of the year she is active in her 
church, teaches Sunday school, and quotes Scripture at 
appropriate times. But during her summer vacations she 
flies to the West Coast and spends three weeks living on 
the beaches, spending her nights with any man she can 
find. "I can't help it," she says. "I'm oversexed. That's 



WHA T DOES GOD ^ANT FROM ME Ai\Y\VA Y? 



23 



the way God made me." Then she goes right back to 
asking her original question, "Why can't I find the will 
of God for my life?" 

To ask about the will of God is easy— to want to obey 
the will of God is something else. God does have a 
direction for us to go. He does want us to belong to the 
pattern of life that will complete and satisfy us— but he 
will not move if we are pushing against him. James 
explained it well. "God opposes the proud but gives 
grace to the humble" (Jas 4:6). Some of us are standing 
in opposition to God, and he is harder than a stone wall. 
The grace of God, which crosses all barriers, is lost to 
us. Two students caught this in a short dialog: 

"God promised abundant life if I seek it. He isn't 
going to keep me from it. If I don't get it, it's because 
I don't ask." 

*'Maybe, but some don't get it because God knows 
they aren't going to live it. Much of the problem with 
learning the will of God is in myself. Can God trust me 
with his revealed will— will I follow him?" 

Once God sees that I do want to follow him and obey 
him, and that I will abide in him, then I can be sure that 
he will lead me. When he sees that I am prayerfully 
searching for and obeying whatever truth he reveals in 
small parts, he will continue to reveal that much more 
of himself to me. 

God Can Open the Windows 

God didn't promise help for just pieces of our lives. 
" Test me in this,' says the Lord Almighty, 'and see if 
I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour 
out so much blessing that you will not have room 



24 



GOD GUIDES YOUR TOMORROWS 



enough for it' " (Mai 3:10). He said that about life 
itself. Go ahead, try him! Look what God can do in 
just one area— choosing a vocation. Ask around and 
you will meet people who can thrill you with stories 
about what God has done in this and other areas of 
their lives. 

Many times Fve watched as God has put together a 
combination of experiences and education to shape a 
person for a position that didn't even exist while they 
were being prepared. Then when their training was com- 
pleted, the job appeared. We may be limited in our plan- 
ning by what is now— but God is not. He wants to lead. 
He knows what is ahead— he knows each of us. 

Hundreds of clergyman today owe their knowledge of 
Greek and the interpretation of the New Testament to 
a Christian scholar who as a student got into the wrong 
registration line. He thought it was the registration for 
a Latin class. When he got to the desk, he found he was 
in the line for Greek But, being comfortable in the 
leading of God, he stayed in line and enrolled in the 
Greek course. God was in that move. He went on to 
become a New Testament Greek scholar who influenced 
thousands in the Christian church. 

God wants us ready. It doesn't matter how impossible 
something seems. When we are ready, he will lead us 
through ways that seem impossible. And as he leads, he 
is very economical. Even the odd things we are doing 
now will be just the background we need someday for 
the next step in his leading. When we are in his will, 
he doesn't waste anything. There is real peace in know- 
ing that. When God is in control, nothing is too diffi- 
cult. 



WHAT DOES GOD WANT FROM ME AWm'AY? 



25 



Those Special Arrangements 

WTien I felt a strong call to the ministry, I enrolled for 
fall quarter at a seminary even though I didn't have the 
money or my college diploma. Before my final college 
quarter began, I learned that I needed four specific 
courses to complete my major and earn my degree. But 
could I get the right two courses spring quarter and the 
remaining two in summer school? 

That was one obstacle. The other was that I also had 
to work full time to earn enough money to enter sem- 
inary. 

I couldn't figure it out, but I could pray. So when it 

came time to register for classes spring quarter, I prayed 
and blindly chose two of the four courses I needed in 
my major field. I still did not know what would be 
offered that summer. There was no way I could antic- 
ipate and balance my spring-quarter schedule with the 
summer schedule. I registered and waited. 

A few weeks later the summer schedule was posted, 
offering only two courses in my major— the exact two 
that I needed to graduate. And they were offered on 
alternate evenings at 7 P.M.— so I could work days if I 
could get a job. 

It wasn't long before my part-tim^e employer asked if 
I would be able to work fijll time that summer on a 
special job that had just been set up for that summer 
only. He didn't stop there. Would I be willing to start 
an hour eariier each day, then quit at 4 P.M. instead of 
5 P.M.? 

So I got my classes, got my fijll-time job, and God 
even gave me the bonus of extra time to eat supper and 
study before class each night. 



26 



COD GUIDES YOUR TOMORROWS 



There are no halfway steps with God. 

Faithfulness Doesn't Always Buy Success 

God does not fail his people. He never has and he never 
will. That doesn't mean that I might not suffer in his 
will, or even die for my obedience. But as one person 
put it after a little reflection, "So what?" 

Faithfulness doesn't always bring success or victory. 
It didn't for the apostle John. He was exiled. 

It didn't for Paul. He went to prison. 

It didn't for John the Baptist. He did what God called 
him to do and had his head served up on a platter. 

It didn't for Stephen. He was martyred by stoning. 

The will of God is exactly that— the will of God. It is 
not my will. I am not called to be successful but to be 
his. I may not have great results in my life, but I am 
called to be faithful. 

Believers have lost their homes and incomes taking 
a stand for what is right. Christians have invested their 
lives in ministry and have come to the end of their days 
with nothing to show for it, sometimes not even an 
inner satisfaction. Many have gone without to give to 
others, only to have others take advantage of them. 

But if biblical standards don't apply, what are we 
called for? Watching and remembering some of our his- 
tory helps. 

A Golden Thread 

Several hundred years ago Cotton Mather prayed for 
revival in New England. It came in the Great Awakening 
one year after he died. He never saw it. But God brought 
the revival. 



WHAT DOES COD WANT FROM ME ANYWAY? 



27 



In England, Anthony Ashley Cooper, the seventh Earl 
of Shaftesbury, worked to eHminate some of the horrible 
labor that was destroying children. As a committed 
Christian, he pushed Parliament for laws to protect chil- 
dren, urged the beginning of ''ragged schools" to give 
the rudiments of education to poor children, and saw 
the end to what he called a ''brutal iniquity" with the 
passage of an act that ended the exploitation of chil- 
dren. Shaftesbury, a privileged man by birth, did not see 
his wealth nor his benefit of class as something to use 
for himself but to help others. He is known as the pi- 
oneer of Christian philanthropy. 

Five missionaries to the Aucas who were slain in 1956 
couldn't have known that their refusal to use their 
weapons would mean that someday Auca Christians 
would also proclaim the gospel in dangerous surround- 
ings, not fearing death. The Aucas know now that a 
believer will lay down his life to bring the message of 
new life to others. 

There is a golden thread running through history. It 
is the thread of faithful people who by their sacrificial 
living for Christ have made it possible for us to hear 
about Jesus and believe. 

We are debtors to them. 

That's why we keep on giving, trusting the same One 
who used the giving of another person, years before, to 
bring the message of the Savior to us. 

The faithful pastor of a struggling rural parish may be 
much more faithful to the will of God than the minister 
of a wealthy church in the suburbs who looks successful 
because of the increasing number of people moving into 
his community. 



28 



GOD GUIDES YOUR TOMORROWS 



When a schoolteacher moved from the East Coast to 
teach in Michigan's rural Upper Peninsula, it took years 
before the wary Finnish settlers accepted the stranger. 
But he built a reputation as a good teacher and started 
a Sunday school. Twenty years later when he moved to 
a new location to start over again, he left behind a 
fellowship of believers able to carry on the gospel wit- 
ness. Textbooks on church history will not mention this 
modem St. Paul. He is an unknown, ordinary man who 
gave up tenure, conference days and fringe benefits to 
work where others did not care to go. He did it for 
Christ. God knows the man and his work. 

When a mother gives her hours to the care of a hand- 
icapped child, or an elderly woman takes on the respon- 
sibility of foster children, most people don't notice. 
Newspaper headlines rarely reveal the stories of the 
quietly faithful. But they influence lives. 

Jesus Wouldn't Qualify 

By some human standards Jesus was a failure. He was 
not successful in terms of owning a large house CToxes 
have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son 
of Man has no place to lay his head" Mt 8:20). He did 
not have titles or degrees. In fact, those who teach the 
gospel of riches can't use Jesus as an example of "one 
whom God has blessed." They could use Pilate— he was 
rich and had a big home— but not Jesus. 

Our measure of obedience is not larger incomes, great 
successes or even pleasant experiences. Our call to serve 
doesn't come from the demands of the ego or the pull 
of the marketplace. Our directions come from another 
place. 



WHA T DOES GOD WANT FROM ME ANYWA Y? 



29 



Obeying the will of God means doing what he tells me 
to do in the way he tells me to do it. A cup of cold water 
given may not seem much when we read of those who 
dig wells to supply hospitals in the desert, but that cup 
of cold water might be given to the one who will himself 
some day dig wells in the desert. But even if he doesn't, 
I am called to give that cup of water. 

Not Much, But Enough 

It may not seem like much to speak to someone in 
prison, but who is that one in prison he is pointing me 
to? I don't have to know because God does. 

It may not seem like much to spend ten minutes with 
a child, but God has control of her life too. I may be 
God's voice of direction or encouragement if I obey and 
invest that ten minutes. 

Lowell Berry, a successful businessman, didn't have 
any money when he was taught to tithe as a little boy. 
But someone took time with him to teach him about 
biblical tithing. Years later, a wealthy man, he provided 
the expenses for thousands of pastors and seminarians 
at the Billy Graham Schools of Evangelism. 

What does God want from me? He wants me to be 
open to him, to be willing to move in any way that he 
cares to have me go. The question has been asked: 
'^What could God do with you if he were free to do 
anything he wished and you would obey?" Ponder that 
for a little while. 

God is looking now for those who will ask, '*What 
does God want from me anyway?" and then follow him 
no matter how unglamorous or unrewarding. 

Finding the will of God does not mean our pathway 



30 



COD GUIDES YOUR TOMORROWS 



will be clear always or our future settled once and for 
all. There will be changes. We turn many comers. A 
missionary explained, "The leading of God is not usually 
a sharp turn. It is a curve angling slowly." There are few 
right-angle turns with God. 

Sometimes in seeking honestly to obey we even make 
the wrong turn. But that doesn't stop God from leading 
us. He can push us back onto the right path, and he 
will. He knows exactly where we are now, and he knows 
where he wants us to be tomorrow. 



3 



When the Signals 



Get Blurred 



all heard it: '7 don't think this is 
the will of God for you.'' Or, ^Tou aren't in the will of 
God." 

Then we begin to wonder, ''Am I?" 

Can I really know what God has planned for me? 
There comes a time for all of us when God wants either 
to get us started in a new direction or to reconfirm a call 
that is getting a little weak. Some of the most exciting 
times in our lives, if we don't panic, are the times when 
we honestly try to follow the Lord and the signals get 
blurred. That's not a worry, that's an opportunity— if 
we're careful. 

Marti grew up in a Christian home, knew all of the 
biblical answers about relating to men, and was all set 




32 



COD GUIDES YOUR TOMORROWS 



for university life— or so she thought. 

By her second semester she had battled out the prob- 
lem of dating non-Christians, convinced that God 
wasn't going to bless a relationship that was combining 
darkness with light. She wanted a Christian. Then she 
found one. 

He went to church, professed faith in Christ, but had 
ideas about virginity that went with what most of the 
non-Christians were saying. Still, he wasn't an unbeliev- 
er, she told herself. She was having fellowship with a 
believer— even though he was trying to get her into his 
bedroom. 

Her roommate tried to warn her, but Marti didn't 
want to listen. She could control a man, she thought. 
Besides, what could her roommate know— she wasn't 
dating anybody. Two other Christian women tried to 
talk to her too. 

She wrote them off as jealous. 

Finally, three committed Christian men got to her. 
They sat her down in a comer of the dorm lounge and 
said bluntly, '^We know this guy." Then they told her 
their own fears about where the relationship might be 
heading. They were loving, but they were also tough. 

Marti cried. She told them that they didn't under- 
stand, that they didn't know him the way she did. But 
later, alone in her room, she admitted to herself and to 
God that her friends wouldn't have spoken as they did 
if they had not been praying or did not care about her. 

She broke off the relationship, and still feels the pain 
of it— and loneliness. There is no one else. Sometimes 
she still wonders what might have been. 

It was her friends, not Marti, who could see what 



WHEN THE SIGNALS GET BLURRED 



33 



was happening. Her own emotions were getting in the 
way. And, even though these friends are now married 
and she has no one, she is still convinced that they were 
right. 

Caught by Feelings 

When the signals get blurred, we need one another. In 
the body of Christ we have many members— all relating 
to each other. Individuals are not capable of always 
understanding the will of God for themselves. 

Those who try to understand God's will on their own 
too often get caught by their own feelings, sometimes 
confusing an adrenalin high with the inspiration of 
God. They look for signs, visions, sensations and even 
pick up the occult term vibrations to describe what they 
call the leading of God. 

Some have a direct line to heaven, or so they think. 
They are in tune with God, and it leads them into all 
kinds of difficulties. They do not realize that Satan will 
give them any sensation they desire so long as he can 
lead them his way. Sooner or later they will trip and fall, 
and when that happens there is a tendency to quit on 
God, saying that God can't be trusted. What they mean, 
of course, is that they can't trust the feelings they 
thought were of God. 

God doesn't want us to be confused. He wants us to 
know his plan for our lives. For people who want to 
discover his will, there are several avenues to follow. 

The Best Interpreter of Scripture 

Search the Word of God. Read the Bible every day and 
take notes. God's will never contradicts his own teach- 



GOD GUIDES YOUR TOMORROWS 



ing in Scripture. Much confusion can be eliminated 
when we know what God is saying in his Word. If we 
get a "leading^* that is contrary to the Bible, we can 
know without doubt that we are wrong— God does not 
contradict his Word. 

The best interpreter of Scripture is more Scripture. 
The same Holy Spirit who inspired the writing of the 
Bible also inspires the reading of it. Knowing that we 
want to follow him, God's Spirit leads us through Scrip- 
ture. We don't have to read with a panicky "0 God, 
teach me, show me quick" attitude. We can relax with 
his Word, enjoy it and spend time daily pondering and 
reflecting as we read it. As we do, we will begin to be 
impressed by the ways he supplied needs in other peo- 
ple's lives and realize that he can do the same with us 
too. We discover an aspect of truth about him that we 
hadn't known before and sense that he wants us to 
apply that truth in our lives as well. 

As we read, God's Spirit encourages, uplifts and dem- 
onstrates his love and leading by biblical examples as 
well as by defining the meaning of our discipleship. 
Through the Word we discover that the Bible's story 
parallels our own. The two-edged sword corrects and 
shapes us. Through God's Word we begin to feel and see 
the way he wants us to go as we walk along with him. 

In reading Scripture, remember that the passage may 
not always have an immediate application. That doesn't 
matter. God is teaching, and like any lesson it may not 
be applied for years. Then at the right time, when it is 
needed, the lesson learned from Scripture will come 
back. Study the Word of God, hide it in your heart— and 
what you understand, obey. 



WHEN THE SIGNALS CETBLimED 



35 



Prayer— a Conversation, Not a Monolog 
Another avenue for learning God's will is prayer. That 
sounds so simple that many people miss it. They say, 
"Of course," but they don't pray. 

Prayer is a conversation, not a monolog. It isn't rush- 
ing into God's presence with a list of requests and then 
leaving. It is waiting on God. Keeping a daily appoint- 
ment with him insures the gradual leading that is a 
certain and systematic way for the will of God to be 
revealed. Most of us can only assimilate and act on small 
portions of guidance at a time anyway. God knows that, 
so he is teaching and leading us in small steps as we 
are ready. 

In prayer, reaffirm to God that you are his, that you 
do want to obey and will obey him. Ask him to show you 
if anything stands in the way of his leading you. If there 
is something, confess it and let him remove it. 

The promises of God are exciting. He does not lie 
when he says, "If you ask anything in my name, I will 
do if' (Jn 14:14 RSV). 

But how does God lead us through prayer? Do we hear 
voices, dream dreams, get a warm, fiizzy feeling, an 
inner excitement? How? 

Fortunately, the way of his leading through prayer 
can't be completely explained. If it could, we would 
have all kinds of problems. Everyone would be checking 
against the yardstick. We'd all be comparing notes. We 
can't do that because we are all different. God made us 
and knows how to communicate his will to us. If there 
were specific rules or systems to be applied, prayer 
would no longer be a two-way communication. It would 
be signal receiving. God wants to communicate. 



36 



GOD GUIDES YOUR TOMORROWS 



God leads in prayer in personal ways that give an 
awareness that "God has me!" As we pray, the experi- 
ences of his holding and guiding contribute to our 
understanding of how he specifically leads us. He knows 
how he does it, and after a while we start to know it too. 

But all of our praying and seeking can't be done 
alone. We need each other! Thaf s the reason for the 
fellowship of other Christians. That's the reason Scrip- 
ture instructs: "Let us not give up meeting together, as 
some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one 
another" (Heb 10:25). 

Tell your Christian friends what you are praying 
about, and they will pray with you. Then do the same 
with them. The most welcome words you can hear from 
someone are, "How can I pray for you?" A beautiful 
thing happens when two or more Christians pray to- 
gether. Jesus said it would be so (see Mt 18:20), and he 
is right. 

But there are some sad examples, unfortunately, of 
people who miss out on that blessing. 

Two men, traveling for their company, visited a 
church on Sunday morning. During the prayer time 
worshipers were asked to share with one another their 
prayer requests. 

One of the men turned to someone near him, found 
out that person's name and immediate need, and prayed 
for him. Then, that other person prayed for him. But the 
second man took that valuable prayer time to tell how 
important he was in his company. He never did get to 
pray— and there wasn't time for the other person to pray 
for him. He cheated himself, and he cheated that other 
church member. The first man went out of the church 



WHEN THE SIGNALS GET BLURRED 



37 



blessed and happy by the fellowship he enjoyed. The 
second man experienced nothing. 

Take advantage of every opportunity to pray with oth- 
ers. Get a prayer partner, someone you can trust, and 
then pray together. The promise is there, 'If two of you 
on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be 
done for you by my Father in heaven" (Mt 18:19). 

Going with the Circumstances 

A third way to discover the will of God is through the 
circumstances God has put you in. He knows where you 
are and what your life situation is. He does not wish, 
as we sometimes do, that we were somewhere else. 
Some of the most faithful Christians are living in tough 
surroundings. They have picked up their leading from 
where they are and are doing great things for God. 

This means you may find yourself in a situation that 
you can't do anything about. You can't control worid 
economics or earthquakes, or even the decisions of peo- 
ple in immediate authority over you. But God knows 
your circumstances. You may feel at times that you are 
being buffeted as a reed in the wind and have no choice 
in matters affecting you. But not to have choices does 
not limit God. He will use what choices you have, the 
choices of others and the situations you are in. The 
leading will be there. 

But often we do have some control over our circum- 
stances, and that can actually cause problems if we are 
not careful. We can begin to respond to situations on 
the basis of our ego needs and think "this is of God." 
Although many Christians have found God's leading by 
the circumstances around them— not all have. 



38 



GOD GUIDES YOUR TOMORROWS 



It sometimes happens, unfortunately, that we re- 
spond so quickly to circumstances that we become vic- 
timized by everyone and every situation around us. 

The believer needs discernment. Satan would like to 
have us acting only as responders, always running and 
seldom accomplishing. God wants us to know what is 
happening around us and be in command of the circum- 
stances. 

People who have a need to be known as Christian 
workers or counselors of others often spin their wheels 
in busy work or in counseling because they respond too 
quickly to cries of help only to find months, even years, 
later that they are being consumed by the demands of 
a few people who manage to tie up ninety per cent of 
their time. It's a shock to some who fancy themselves 
heavily involved in counseling when a time study shows 
that their counseling is with the same few, week in and 
week out, who are not really open to help. 

Jesus was always on top of the circumstances around 
him. He knew who he was and what his ministry was 
all about. In Luke 4:43, we read that he left the clam- 
oring, needy crowd because '1 must preach the good 
news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, 
because that is why I was sent." He got up and left. He 
knew when to do that. 

We need to know, before God, what our calling is and 
not dissipate our energies. We must be strong enough 
to respond to the real needs, not just the apparent ones. 

Parents understand that. If a mother reacted only to 
the demands of her children, they would govern her. 
Out of love she decides what they need and gives it to 
them. She knows, not from the whining but from what 



WHEN THE SIGNALS GET BLURRED 



39 



she observes, that one child needs a little extra love and 
encouragement, while another needs discipline. She 
knows what they should eat and when they should go 
to bed— they don't decide that for themselves. 

Christians, who are salt and light, do not just cast 
their offerings whenever or wherever there is a clamor. 
They prayerfully look and give. Sometimes the one who 
is saying nothing has the greatest needs, while the ones 
who are making the most noise should be passed over 
until they are ready to accept the real help that they 
need. 

The inner leading and the outward circumstances 
around us come together so that we are giving, not 
letting circumstances take, our strengths and offerings. 
We begin to develop the mind of Christ in these matters. 

The leading of circumstances starts to make sense as 
we mature in the Lord. To the new believer this may 
seem nebulous, but we can learn from each other and 
learn from the example of Jesus to respond in the most 
effective way to the circumstances into which God 
places us. 

Your Friends Are Your Teachers 

Finally, pay attention to the advice of other Christians, 
particularly those who are themselves earnestly seeking 
God's direction for their lives. Although bad advice is 
possible, it is less so in the abundance of counselors 
(Prov 11:14). 

Many Christians have found their places of service in 
the world through the advice of other persons who saw 
the gifts that God had given them. 

In some schools guidance seminars have replaced 



40 



GOD GUIDES YOUR TOMORROWS 



guidance counselors. Faculty and students alike have 
realized that often peers can analyze the gifts and train- 
ing of their friends better than anyone else. 

At one session a graduating senior was urged to take 
a particular job because ''we can really see you there." 
Fellow students told him, "The job requires the gifts 
that God has given to you. It seems to be exactly what 
God has been preparing you for." 

It wasn't the direction that student would have cho- 
sen for himself. He did not feel ready. But after talking 
to these ftiends who knew him and could help him 
discern what God was doing in his life, he relaxed and 
took the post. 

When a pastor left one position for another, he said, 
"Everything that I looked for was missing in that new 
position, but my wife said to me, Tou have the gifts that 
church needs.' " We can't always see it ourselves, so 
God speaks through others who can. 

Being in God's will is an adventure in faith. The road 
may not always be comfortable, but it is right. 

We all want easy answers about guidance, but there 
aren't any! Guidance is part of a relationship. It isn't a 
commodity that you get from the store. 

What If You sun Don't Know? 

What happens when we ask and pray, pay attention to - 
the circumstances and seek the counsel of others, but 
still don't know? 

Sometimes, even after we read the Bible to make sure 
we are not violating any of God's teachings, and pray by 
ourselves and with others, and talk with friends who 
love us and will counsel us, and observe the circum- 



WHEN THE SIGNALS GET BLURRED 



41 



stances surrounding us— we still don't know if we are 
really in the will of God. 

There is an answer that is so simple that many of us 
miss it. God is leading you. You want his leading and 
certainly he wants to lead you. The silence you get from 
him means that all is well— keep going. 

Older Christians, with years of experience in the 
Lord, are able to recall that God was leading them— 
even when they didn't think so and there were no sig- 
nals. With that as background, they continue on in 
trust. 

But for most new Christians who haven't had the 
years of experience that prove to them that God does 
lead even when they don't feel led, the future is some- 
what terrifying when they have to make a decision and 
have no idea at all what God is saying or doing. 

We look for a Damascus Road experience, the dramat- 
ic bolt out of the blue. But that's our problem, not 
God's. Why should God have to do that for me? He 
doesn't have to prove himself to me. If he did it once, 
I would expect it all the time. 

If I am seeking his will and sincerely want to be 
obedient, then I can be certain that he is leading right 
now. He doesn't have to say to me, "Did you notice? I'm 
leading you." He wants to lead— he is leading. He 
knows as well as I do that his will is the only way I can 
find fulfillment and peace. 

No Dramatic Kicks 

If I don't get a dramatic kick from God, that doesn't 
mean I am outside his will. It may mean the opposite— 
I may be on the right path now. He has to push me only 



42 



COD GUIDES YOUR TOMORROWS 



when I stray. As long as I have my hand in his, he will 
keep on leading. I never have to worry about whether 
or not he is leading, only about my willingness to be 
led. Silence is action. As a Christian I can say with 
confidence, ''God has me." 

A young Christian said, "I get so discouraged not 
knowing." 

A friend listening replied, 'Tes, but you find you have 
learned so much more than if you had been hit on the 
head and told what to do." 

That friend was right. We learn to do what the writer 
of Proverbs urged: "Trust in the Lord with all your 
heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all 
your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your 
paths straight" (Prov 3:5-6). 

The most relaxed people in the world are the Chris- 
tians who know that God is in control. They are not in 
a panic, demanding every moment that God show them 
he is in control. Believers do not need constant assur- 
ance of what is a fact. 

Don't look for dramatic action ft-om God. Rather, rest 
in the day-by-day peace of God. Don't demand that he 
prove his lordship. He doesn't have to. 

Then, as the years go by, you will be able to look back 
and say, ''He did have me." 

Once we get over the idea of a dramatic leading and 
start to trust him, the resulting peace is beautifial. 

But I Like It! 

Another point has to be made here. There are a few 
misguided Christians who think, "I must be out of the 
will of God because I am enjoying myself." Or, "I am 



i^'HEN THE SJG.\ALS GET BLURRED 



43 



doing the ver>' thing that I would choose to do; there- 
fore, this can't be what God wants." 

That's like saying God doesn't understand me or even 
like me. It's built on an assumption that if it's fun or 
I like it, it can't be of God. 

But he made me and gave me my talents and abilities 
and likes and dislikes, and he assembled the whole com- 
bination that is "me." Most of all, he loves me. 

If I have a talent for music and like it, why should 
1 assume that I must keep on praying to God for a 
revelation of his will. Obviously he wants me to develop 
my music unless he very clearly tells me otherwise in 
such direct terms that I can't miss what he is saying. 

There are times when God says, "Go this way"— and 
we had better go— but most of the time he says nothing 
because we are already going the way he wants us to 
go. We are using what we have the way he wants us to 
use it. There is no need for him to say or do anything 
more. 

Try a little test. WTiat would you do if you could do 
anything you wanted without regard for finances or 
time? 

Just thinking about that sounds wrong. But that's 
because so many of us think we must try to push against 
the very nature God has given us. If God wants you to 
paint pottery, then go to it. As long as you are always 
available to him so that he can steer you down another 
road if he wants to, you are in the will of God. 

There is another reason for usually going ahead with 
what we like. Many people, determining who they are 
and how they function and what gifts God has given to 
them, get started in something only to find that God has 



GOD GUIDES YOUR TOMORROWS 



let them go that way so that they will accumulate the 
kinds of experiences that fit them for a different task 
that is still in the future. 

God Doesn't Waste Anything 

God is economical. He doesn't waste training or expe- 
riences. He knows what we are doing, what we are learn- 
ing, and how he is going to use all of that five, ten, 
twenty years from now. 

It's easy to be disappointed when we have prepared 
for "the plan of God for my life," only to have the door 
shut in our faces. 

That's because we were busy focusing on the plan 
when God was focusing on the preparation. Watch how 
he uses that preparation in a whole new way. 

When the signals seem to be blurred and you are 
uncertain, keep on praying, keep on getting Christian 
counsel, but don't stop what you are doing. Trust him 
to steer you if you are on the wrong course. But don't 
stop! 

A sailboat's rudder is useless while the sails are down. 
Set sail, get going. You can't get any direction until the 
wind fills the sails. Then when the wind changes, be 
ready to come about. God may have to change your 
course, but when he does, you will have the momentum 
for it. 

God knows how to move you when the time comes 
for you to be moved. He knows what is happening to 
you and what should be happening for you. In other 
words, trust God to be God. There isn't anything he 
doesn't know. Don't try to filter him through your own 
emotional system— or second-guess him. 



WHm THE SKJNALS GETm^l^fiRED 



45 



Turn or Crash 

There are pecrle who refjse to alter course even when 
they know that God is making it clear that it's time to 
go in a new direction. They try to hang onto a job or 
an idea or a goal because what they have is more com- 
fortable or certain than wha: m.ay lie ahead. a result, 
they are no longer available for what God really wants. 
In trying to hang onto some good thing they have now, 
they run the risk of m.issing God's best. 

That even happens to dating couples. Both womien 
and men sometimes find it easier to hang onto the per- 
son they are dating now than allow God to bring new 
people into their lives. Even those who are receptive to 
whomever God might bring along still prefer to hold 
onto the one person Lhey have rather than be free for 
awhile to grow so that God can prepare them for his 
best. But following God's leading means responding to 
an inner awareness or counsel that a particular relation- 
ship isn't right. I: mie.ans being willing to stay alone for 
as long as God wi^s rather than m.ake a mistake. Those 
who have freed themselves to m.eet and ma.n>' the best 
that God has for them., or to go on into a single life of 
commitment, will find a life far more fulfiiimg than they 
dream.ed possible. 

WTiy doesn't God introduce the nght two people to 
each other right away and save the painful experiences? 
Because no one is ready for marriage until he or she is 
readv :o fiiiov; G:d's will. Gcd's choice may not be ready 
for me yet. I miay not be ready for God's choice. There 
is first a wholeness to be leamied alone that equips us 
for a relationship with someone. 
Only when I have wrestled v,i;h a wBlingness, even 



46 



COD GUIDES YOUR TOMORROWS 



a commitment to the single life, and surrender to God's 
will, am I ready for whoever God has for me, if indeed 
he has someone at all. A lot of people settle for a union. 
God wants his children who marry to enjoy marriage, 
which can only be possible in him. Only when God has 
first place in my life can he trust me with his kind of 
marriage or his kind of single life. Only when I come to 
that kind of surrender can I be ready for either marriage 
or a celibate life that opens up doors to lariger service 
than most family people can enter. 

Living on God's Terms 

Both vocation and marriage, two of the major decisions 
that each of us makes, are serious to God. The key is 
to do what he wants on his terms so I can become the 
whole person he wants me to be and get the experiences 
he wants me to have. Then I can be ready for a special- 
ized ministry, a vocation and possibly be presented to 
another person in marriage. Another immense benefit is 
added to this. I will have discovered a quality of satis- 
faction in him that nothing that I may want or take for 
myself can begin to match. 

God is helping, refining and polishing us. He wants 
to do it. He is sure of his own leading. We can be sure 
too. God doesn't make mistakes. 



4 



Sometimes I Get 
Angry with God 



Don Y 



be surprised if it happens! You may 
find yourself angry with God. 

Marilyn, a young woman, already appointed with her 
husband to their first term on the mission field, died in 
a car crash. Her husband is left alone now to care for 
an infant daughter. A lot of people are asking, ''Why, 
God?" 

When Bill was only a few weeks away from being 
made vice president of his company— a goal he had 
aimed for all his adult life— he was struck down by a 
heart attack. 

Judy had her bridesmaids chosen, her wedding invi- 
tations printed and the church reserved, when her 
fiance told her that he wasn't so certain any more, and 



♦ 



GOD GUIDES YOUR TOMORROWS 

would like to postpone the wedding— maybe perma- 
nently. 

Little Scott died slowly of leukemia. His parents 
could only watch their son and pray. On their knees, 
they cried. 

Life isn't fair. We are in a world of decay caused by 
the Fall. The result of sin touches every dimension of 
our being and the world around us. Sickness is here— 
and we will get sick. Corruption is here— and we will 
be hurt. Suffering is all around us— and it will invade 
our homes. The apostle Paul told us, "We know that the 
whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of 
childbirth right up to the present time" (Rom 8:22). ' 
Creation groans and we do too— but we are not alone. 
A few lines farther on the same author reveals God's 
help: "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weak- I 
ness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but 
the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that 
words cannot express" (Rom 8:26). 



When the Questions Come 

If you think you have everything figured out, that God 
is blessing your life and is giving you what seems to be 
even more than what you asked for, don't be surprised 
if suddenly everything crumbles. It happens, and when 
it does, it's a vicious blow. 

That's when the questions come— and with the ques- 
tions, anger. 

It starts at first with a reverent, 'Why?" Then, when 
no quick revelation comes or no reason can be fath- 
omed, the bitterness starts to creep in. It helps to rec- 
ognize it— and clear the air with God, because if you 



SOMETIMES I GET ANGRY WJTH GOD 



49 



don't, it will eat at you like a cancer. 

A Christian woman who seemed to have ever>thing 
going wrong in her life tried to pray, but couldn't. Fi- 
nally, she asked her friends to pray with her, so they 
tried. They started, stopped, and asked, "WTiat's the 
problem? There's a block. We can't pray with you." 

Then she admitted, ''Ym angry at God." 

She expected them to be shocked or to lecture her on 
how she ought to show proper respect and honor toward 
God. Instead she got a relieved, ^"Vv'ell, why didn't you 
say so. Tell him that you are angry so that you can get 
things settled." 

They understood what she still had to learn—God 
knows when we are just saying words or playing prayer 
games with him. He knows when we are angr>'. Just as 
every husband or wife knows from icy comments or 
stony silence that their spouse is angry, so does God. 

Settle Your Differences with God 

In our human relationships, when we love someone, we 
know it and they know it. When we are angry with 
them, they know that too. Anger and love are really two 
extremes of the same emotion. 

Settle your differences with God. Get them out where 
you can deal with them. Jesus said, 'T have called you 
friends" (Jn 15:15). If two friends can't talk about what 
has come between them, something is wrong. 

Anger that is brought out into the open can lead to 
reconciliation and restored harmony. Two people who 
argue and then settle the argument will often be closer 
than before because they have communicated honestly 
and neither is harboring unconfessed anger. 



GOD GUIDES YOUR TOMORROWS 



This is just as tme with God as it is with the people 
we love. But if I want reconciliation, I have to be honest 
enough to say what is bothering me. Refusing to artic- 
ulate anger is like saying loud and clear, '1 don't want 
it cleared up. I like the wall separating us.'' That can't 
be if I love a person, and it can't be if I love God. 

Dangerous Anger 

There is a caution that must be given here. It is dan- 
gerous to be always angry with God. A person who fights 
with God puts himself up as an equal with God— in 
other words, as a rival! Some people like to fight, and 
they like to fight God. It gives them a sense of power. 
They are arrogant— they shake their fist at him. 

A pastor who wanted to move to a larger church got 
his eyes off the ministry and onto the prestige and op- 
portunities that a larger church could offer him. He 
wouldn't admit it though. In fact, he couched his wants 
in terms of ''a better opportunity to serve the Lord." 

But he wasn't even taking advantage of the opportu- 
nities he had to serve the Lord in the church where he 
was. He was miserable— always looking, never finding. 
When he learned that a large, prestigious church was 
seeking a pastor, he exploded, 'Tes, but I bet they won't 
ask me." 

He was angry with God, angry with those who have 
the responsibility of pastoral placement, and he took it 
all out on his congregation. He did less and less in the 
church. 

Each Sunday instead of encouraging and teaching 
and feeding the flock in his church, he criticized them 
for being unspiritual, not caring. In short, he saw in 



SOMETIMES I GET ANGRY \\TTH GOD 



51 



them his own failures. Even his choice of words showed 
how he was projecting his own guilt: 'Tou are not ful- 
filling the will of God for your lives." 

The dismayed congregation was deeply hurt. People 
who were already doing far more of the ministry than 
the pastor, trying hard to fulfill the will of God in their 
lives, couldn't understand where they had fallen short. 
One woman said, ''No matter what I do I am attacked 
for not doing more." 

They didn't understand because the pastor who was 
attacking them didn't understand. He was angry with 
God, and instead of confessing it and getting things 
settled, he chose to hold onto his anger and attack the 
flock. 

Instead of going to the Chief Shepherd to get his 
signals straight, he was biting and devouring and ha- 
rassing the flock that was his charge. He was like a 
sheep dog, invaluable to the shepherd when he obeys 
the shepherd's signals, but destructive to the flock 
when he doesn't. 

Slowly some of the parishioners began to recognize 
his problem. They knew that they had to support and 
love their pastor even as they also had to protect the 
congregation from his anger. 

It was difficult, but members of the congregation, 
knowing the love of God in their own lives, kept him 
from hurting as much as they could while they loved 
him. In a way, they did just ^as a parent does for a child 
who is always most obnoxious when he needs love 
most. 

A few people, not understanding how anger works, 
became bitter, found they couldn't love their pastor, and 



52 



GOD GUIDES YOUR TOMORROWS 



left the church— but only a few. The larger number did 
not depend on the man in the pulpit— they depended 
on the Lord and vowed to help. 

The pastor was ministered to. Knowledgeable pa- 
rishioners agreed that if the pastor did go to a different, 
larger or "better" church, he would be a happier servant 
of Christ if they took the responsibility to help him 
become a better minister before he moved. They knew 
that if he did move elsewhere, he would have learned 
some valuable lessons and wouldn't hurt another con- 
gregation too. 

Their love began to bring results. As his anger mel- 
lowed, God was able to bless him through his parishion- 
ers, and the church began to be a femily again. 

Going for Reconciliation 

When a Christian is angry with God, he can do a lot of 
harm to others. It takes a supportive group of believers 
to help him see that it is far worse to hide the causes 
of anger and react in hurtful ways than it is to go to the 
Lord and talk it over with him. 

Going for reconciliation means we want to be recon- 
ciled. When that happens, beautiful results can come. 

God wants me to be free enough to say outright, 
'There is something between us and I am unhappy 
about it." God doesn't want grudges harbored. 

When things have gone wrong, or just seem to be 
wrong, confession opens the door to seeing things from 
God's perspective— that it isn't my plans, my goals, my 
ambitions or desires that need to be blessed, but my 
relationship to him. 

When I want God more than I want any of the things 



SOMETIMES I GET ANGRY WITH GOD 



53 



I pray about, a new and deeper peace overshadows any 
of the goals I may have set for myself. That discovery 
not only resolves my anger with God, it shows me why 
I tend to become angry with him. 

Do I want him. more than I want anything else? Is 
anything in the way of that? Will I be angry with him 
for not giving me what I thought we both wanted for 
me? Can I love him more than anything else so that I 
will stay in fellowship with him no matter what comes 
of it? 

No Matter What 

Am I willing to want the will of God, no matter what 
it costs, even if I can see nothing but unhappiness 
ahead? 

Separated by half a continent, an engaged couple met 
individually with concerned, mature Christian friends 
about their marriage plans. Both wanted to marry the 
person God had chosen for them, and they thought they 
had found that one in each other. Yet, both were a little 
uncomfortable. 

Their friends, independent of what the other part:ner's 
friends were saying, explained that they were not ready 
for marriage. Both came to a realization— painful as it 
was, and they both cried many nights— that they were 
to seek the will of God first no matter whether God 
would have them marry or remain single the rest of their 
lives. It was not an easy conclusion for them. For a 
while, both struggled and fought with God. 

But when they came to the conclusion that God is 
God and must be first, and began to live that out in their 
lives, then, and only then, did God begin the process 



54 



GOD GUIDES YOUR TOMORROWS 



that brought them back together. Only this time it was 
around himself. 

Today they are happily married to each other, and 
time has shown that God was preparing each for the 
other in such a unique way that they are indeed perfect 
for one another. 

Well, then, why did God allow them to go through so 
much pain? 

Why indeed? Except that he used it to show them 
himself and help them understand, even though it was 
painful, that he loves them far more than they could 
ever love each other. They were planning a wedding, but 
that's all it was. When they were willing to give each 
other up to obey God, they discovered the meaning of 
the phrase, "God reserves the right to give us something 
better than what we ask for." God has united them in 
himself— it is a beautiful marriage. 

Anger That Leads Somewhere 

Job didn't like what was happening to him either. He 
became angry, but even in his anger he admitted to God, 
*Tou are God." He discovered, "He is not a man like me 
that I might answer him, that we might confront each 
other" (Job 9:32). And he never forgot it. 

God blessed Job's life just as he wants to bless each 
life that belongs to him. Sometimes we get so caught 
up in the theological discussion of the intervention of 
Satan in Job's life that we miss the divine-human ele- 
ment. God knew Job and had his hand on him all the 
time. 

God doesn't want me to be miserable! Being human, 
I assume that therefore everything will be easy with no 



SOMETIMES I GET ANGRY WITH COD 



55 



pain— but not so. Sooner or later each of us comes to 
realize that there will be pain all life long but that God's 
grace is sufficient for it. Job went through a rough time, 
but, anger and all, he went through it with God. 

Anger is not bad if it leads somewhere. People who 
pretend that they are never angry are usually just push- 
ing their anger inside. Anger is normal— it is a human 
emotion. 

Some Christians, not wanting to admit to anger be- 
cause they think it is unchristian, explain away the 
anger they feel but want to deny. Justifying themselves, 
they claim the example of Jesus who threw the money- 
changers out of the Temple. When they express anger 
at injustice, evil in government, or people involved in 
pornography or abortion or drugs, they call it righteous 
anger. It is real anger, and it is understandable, but 
there is a subtle danger in their classification of it. They 
forget something— none of us is righteous. None of us 
sees things with the clarity of the divine mind. Though 
we are adopted as children of God we are not the Son 
of God. 

All of us tend to filter things through our own emo- 
tions. We get upset and lash out at what bothers us. We 
cater to our own pet peeves. We need to understand our 
tendencies so that we do not simply assume that what 
is upsetting us is also upsetting God and that our anger 
is like his— righteous. 

We may think we are angry about the same things 
that anger him, but we risk the danger of putting our- 
selves in the place of deciding for God what angers him. 
We end up trying to be God. 

There are also Christians who react angrily to people 



56 



COD GUIDES YOUR TOMORROWS 



and circumstances around them because they are just 
plain angry people. They need to blast something or 
someone. It's an outlet. 

Some of us who love Christ are seen by the public as 
haters of people because we have acted in angry, hateful 
ways or because we have thought that we could dogmat- 
ically and angrily defend our views as God's views. Some 
are seen as hateful people because in emphasizing the 
soul we are seen as contributors to the pain of people. 
There are Christians who witness for souls but care little 
to help others in need. Persons who gravitate to liber- 
ation theology are not necessarily always drawn by so- 
cialistic or Marxist views so much as they are driven to 
react to narrow, bigoted, even hateful views of some 
who claim to follow Christ but grasp, use, consume and 
thus injure their fellows. It is a sad and costly anger that 
some express. 

When We Try to Be Balanced 

It is easy to get Christians who cannot agree on doctrine 
or church polity or even scriptural interpretation to be- 
come united around anger. There is a quality of ''fellow- 
ship" to it. There are leader types who capitalize on 
anger, building a fellowship around whatever they are 
angry about. And usually they call their anger righteous 
too. But knowing the mind of Christ means being like 
him— balanced in our thinking. 

A balanced Christian follows Jesus. When anger does 
come, it's not his own as much as a reflection of Christ 
in him. Christ faces the sin in people in order to purge 
out evil as he sees it. Not only does he call people to 
new birth and the resulting new nature so that they can 



SOMETIMES J GET ANGRY WITH GOD 



57 



be different, he calls people who are already believers to 
practice what they were saved to be and to stop getting 
their directions from the world. 

But it isn't easy. Try to correct people, and you won't 
always be loved for it. We sometimes think that if we 
are peacemakers the warring parties will love us. But in 
fact what usually happens is that neither side loves us, 
because they want us to agree with them and be in their 
camp. They will reject anyone who is not one hundred 
per cent with them on their terms. 

Jesus came "to preach good news to the poor, ... to 
proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight 
for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the 
year of the the Lord's favor" (Lk 4:18-19). That's our 
purpose too. 

There are Christians who take only the first part 
about preaching and then spiritualize the second part, 
assuming that their job is only to talk the good news. 
They do little else for people. Then they angrily criticize 
other Christians who care about releasing the captives 
and helping the oppressed as being less spiritual. They 
make a category out of the term humanism, not realiz- 
ing that good people who care about helping people 
considered humanism to be a love and a respect for 
fellow human beings. Making humanism a pejorative 
term can classify us as people haters. No Christian must 
be seen as a people hater. God hates sin, not people. His 
followers do the same. 

Other Christians take only the second part of Luke 
4:18-19 and assume that they are following Jesus if they 
get involved in the release of captives, healing and so- 
cial concerns, but they never preach Christ as the Savior 



58 



GOD GUIDES YOUR TOMORRO WS 



who sets people free. They are often critical, even angry, 
at those who do. They have not moved into an obedient 
walk with Christ in the whole ministry that he prac- 
ticed. 

Maturing Christians are balanced in their response to 
Jesus and balanced in their response to the worid. They 
are not simple-answer people, easily captured by the 
rhetoric of the worid even when it creeps into the 
church. 

For example, when mature Christians look at rac- 
ism—and there is racism in every part of the worid— 
they do not gravitate to one camp or another. They will 
not tolerate the hateful racial slurs of whites toward 
blacks. But neither will they react and go the other way 
and slander whites. They will not be white racists nor 
will they be black racists. They will see people's sins, 
not racial sins. They will not be forced into buying the 
package of any slander group. They stand against rac- 
ism—wherever it is— and work to eliminate it. They 
respond to every social, personal or ecclesiastical sin 
that way, but they won't buy into slogan groups— either 
right wing or left wing— who base a lot of their reac- 
tions to the worid not on Scripture but on their own 
anger. 

Legitimate Anger 

Legitimate anger comes when we begin to see things as 
God's people, a people saturated with his teachings. If 
our will is to do his will, the cause of our anger will be 
the cause for our action. He will stop us if we are wrong. 

We do get angry at government officials who spend 
money for their own political goals at the price of in- 



SOMETIMES I GET ANGRY WITH GOD 



59 



juring the country. We do react against those who are 
self-seeking but do not represent their constituency. 

We campaign, we speak out, we get involved in po- 
litical parties— though always careful not to sell out to 
a party, because we are already sold out to Christ. We 
work as Christians to bring into office responsible lead- 
ers. 

We do become angry at a labor union representative 
who will cheat management or his own coworkers if it 
means improving his own position or bank account. 

We get angry and we do act. But not because we are 
antiunion or prounion but because we are representa- 
tives of the Light of the world. The position of Jesus is 
clear— and so is ours— to thwart evil. 

We do get angry when we see business leaders and 
financial officers bleeding their workers or cheating the 
public. We get angry and we speak out, but not because 
we are antibusiness or probusiness, or because there is 
gain for us personally. We get angry because we've read 
the Bible and know what Jesus said and recognize that 
we are his ambassadors. Someone must speak out in the 
name of God. 

It does anger us to see the flight to the suburbs of 
people, even Christians, who want to leave the inner 
city and then at the same time encourage their highway 
departments to rip out homes and uproot families who 
can't move, destroying communities in order to build 
concrete expressways to their own jobs in the city. They 
take real estate for roads, leaving residents in the inner 
city without the tax base needed for good schools. Be- 
cause they are personally unaffected by the result, they 
won't even sympathize with "that slum problem." 



60 



GOD GUIDES YOUR TOMORROWS 



Caring and Responding 

Caring Christians go to city planning meetings and 
council sessions. Like those before us who fought 
against child labor, slavery, unjust taxes or tyrants in 
government, we respond as agents of the King against 
the systems and attitudes that hurt people. 

We do become angry and speak out about the sexual 
abuse of children, murder in the womb, drug trafficking, 
sexism, cheating and all that hurts people. We ignore 
Luke 4 if we do not. The disciple must follow his master. 

To those who ask, ''How do you know that it is the 
will of God for you to speak out?" we can reply, '"We 
know it is not the will of God that we remain silent." 
The Bible says, ''Whoever knows what is right to do and 
fails to do it, for him it is sin" (Jas 4:17 RSV). 

Of course, there are Christians who march, petition, 
argue and fight over an issue, but only when it affects 
them personally or touches their own pockets. The 
Christ-centered person cares about the plight of others, 
even when he is untouched personally, whether they 
live across the street or on the other side of the globe. 

To be angry is to say, "I care." To ignore a person or 
need or situation is to say, "I don't care." Anger says, 
"I do care." And Christian anger says, "God cares too." 

Retarding the Decay around Us 

Anger based on the righteousness of Christ demands 
that the believer be as salt in the worid, retarding the 
decay that is all around. It means the believer is a light 
pointing people to the one solution to all of the reasons 
for anger, the Lord Jesus Christ. 
Some Christians look at things that should arouse 



SOMETIMES I GET ANGRY WITH GOD 



61 



their anger and say, 'Traise God anyway." They either 
pretend that something doesn't hurt or assume that all 
that is happening is what God wants. After all, 'If God 
wants to stop it, let him stop it." In other words, '"What 
will be will be." Scripture is true: "I know that every- 
thing God does will endure forever; nothing can be 
added to it, and nothing taken from it. God does it so 
that men will revere him" (Eccles 3:14). And it's true 
that ''We know that in all things God works for the good 
of those who love him" (Rom 8:28). 

But easy quoting of Scripture can also be a back door 
left open to irresponsibility. We are to balance the Word 
with the Word. The best corrective for an unbalanced 
view of Scripture is more Scripture. 

Sometimes we label things "God's will" when it is 
really a Satanic activity. There is evil in the world. It's 
all around us. 

It influences all of us, and it isn't of God. Evil comes 
in the form of sickness, death, pain and corruption, and 
all of it comes because we are in a fallen world. Satan 
is "the ruler of the kingdom of the air" (Eph 2:2). He 
"prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone 
to devour" (1 Pet 5:8). We are in that world, and Satan 
is real. 

There is pollution around us because of the grasping 
sin of people. There is v;ar around us because of the hate 
in people. There is crime and corruption because of the 
evil in people's lives. We cannot say, "What will be will 
be." 

There is social, political, spiritual and physical dis- 
ease around us, and Christians are just as affected by it 
as anyone else because they are in the world too. Chris- 



62 



COD GUIDES YOUR TOMORROWS 



tians believe God cares and that he can heal, but they 
don't deny their anger at the very fallenness that made 
that disease. 

If Christians are angry, they are to be angry in Christ. 
It's not an anger that is self-centered or enjoyed. It is 
an anger motivating them to do something. It is an 
anger motivated by love. Anger apart from love is ego- 
centric. It comes out of and generates sin. Love that is 
anger is not proud anger, it is sad anger— but it is real. 

While the world is in its sin, we continue to be the 
redemptive, healing community, redeeming in the name 
of Jesus whenever and however we can. Anger and love 
trigger us to do it. It's anger because we see and know 
and understand, not anger because of our weak human 
frailties that pitch us around on every wave, or influence 
us by every piece of gossip or newspaper story. We are 
angry because we are part of the body governed by the 
mind of Christ. He is the Head, and we care about the 
things he cares about. We love with the love of God who 
lives in us. It is his love, the love of the One who is 
"Christ in you" (Col 1:27). It is the love of the One of 
whom John said, 'Tor God so loved the world that he 
gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him 
shall not perish but have eternal life" (Jn 3:16). 

When God calls us to himself, we stand on holy 
ground. That's an awesome and responsible place to be. 



5 



I Seem to Have a 
Talent for Makin 
a Mess of Things 




Sandv 



^ , was scared! 

She knew whatMie might be getting into when she 
agreed to go out with him. She even broke another date 
with a man she trusted to go out on this one. But going 
against every Christian conviction in her that screamed, 
*'Stop!" and pushing aside a promise she had once made 
to God, she told her trusted date that she was busy, 
knowingly went out with the man whose reputation 
preceded him— and did the very thing she had advised 
other women not to do. 

Fortunately she was spared the pregnancy she feared. 
With tears in her eyes she gave thanks to God for de- 
liverance and promised never to compromise again. 

But her battle wasn't over. She still had to come to 
understand an important truth for emotional and spiri- 



COD GUIDES YOUR TOMORROWS 



tual freedom. Just as David once did, she prayed, "Create 
in me a clean heart, God; and renew a right spirit 
within me" (Ps 51:10 KJV). As the weeks went by she 
was able to realize the position she had as a child of God. 
It is a place of status. She knew the promise applied to 
her that those who confess their sins are forgiven by God 
(1 Jn 1:9). She could now forgive herself. 

Even though she had taken her Lord's name, the 
name she wore as a Christian, and had knowingly 
dragged that name with her into sin, yet like David, 
when she cried out and was delivered, then also like 
David she was able to go on with her Lord. 

Taking Satan's Lure 

Some of us wonder with Sandy why it is that ''I have 
a talent for making a mess of things." 

For one week every year I go fishing in Minnesota. I 
try a variety of artificial lures to catch walleyes and 
northerns. 

Some days the fish strike one lure, some days an- 
other. But there is one particular lure that they go for 
every time. They can't resist it. That lure is chewed 
where so many fish have fought to dislodge the hook 
but couldn't. Those fish have a weakness, and I know 
what it is. Because I know, I can catch them. 

Satan knows the weakness of every one of us too. He 
has a lot of different lures to dangle in front of us and 
may try them. But for each of us, he has a favorite lure 
and he knows how to use it. 

Occasionally a fish will pull loose, ripping its skin, 
and with mouth hanging down it goes off to heal. But 
the scars will always be there. Sometimes we can pull 



/ SEEM TO HAVE A TALENT FOR MAKING A MESS OF THINGS 65 

away from Satan too, but not before some painful tear- 
ing occurs causing scars that will remain for the rest of 
our lives. For even when we are made whole again by 
receiving and accepting forgiveness, the physical and 
sometimes the emotional results of what we did won't 
go away. Christians get emotionally, physically and spir- 
itually hurt, and they hurt others too. 

There are so many painful ways for the people of God 
to stumble, and Satan knows every one of them. As he 
studies believers, he knows that he probably cannot 
make us denounce Christ— but he can tempt us into a 
compromise with sin. Satan knows exactly how to make 
each one of us fall. Our weaknesses are no secret to him. 

Knowing what we are like and how our minds work, 
Satan will aim where we are vulnerable. A person may 
not be tempted with greed, but might be tempted with 
the pride that grows out of not being greedy. The person 
who can't stand the taste of liquor will probably not 
become an alcoholic— but he might lust for food. Satan 
knows how to get to our weak spots. He knows where 
they are. 

Three things are certain about messing up our lives. 
First, we don't have to yield to temptation. God has 
made a way of escape. Second, if we do slip we don't 
have to wallow in our mistakes. There is deliverance. 
Third, we can use the lesson learned from falling not 
only to avoid falling again, but to help some other per- 
son who is facing similar pressures. 

Alone with Our Fantasies 

Most temptations come because we are open to being 
tempted. In solitude, when no one else is around, we 



66 



GOD GUIDES YOUR TOMORROWS 



daydream. Our fantasies make us wonder what if, or 
what would it be Hke, or suppose I did. Then we begin 
to rationaUze that it is probably okay, or we need this 
as part of our understanding of the way the world works. 
We can justify anything when we think about it long 
enough, even to the point of saying, '"Well, God made 
me and knows my inner urgings," or, 'It can help me 
be a more informed Christian." 

One minister who took a strong public stand against 
pornography enjoyed reading the very magazines he 
condemned. When two women in his congregation 
found a stack of magazines hidden behind his filing 
cabinet in the church office, he tried to tell them that 
he was doing sermon research. The well-thumbed col- 
lection indicated a different kind of interest than just 
sermon preparation. 

A denominational official who campaigned against 
massage parlors in his community financed some of his 
own illicit relationships with women through church 
missionary funds that were channeled through his of- 
fice. He soon found that his secret was no secret at all, 
and the mission funds dried up as churches began to 
send their money directly to the missionaries on the 
field, not through his office. 

It is easy to rationalize our sins, and Satan knows it. 
The teaching, 'If I want it, I must need it/' is one of 
Satan's favorite tricks. 

Nevertheless, the committed Christian does have a 
way of escape. The Scripture has been verified in thou- 
sands of lives: ''No temptation has seized you except 
what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not 
let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when 



/ SEEM TO HA VE A TALENT FOR MAKING A MESS OF THINGS 67 



you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that 
you can stand up under it" (1 Cor 10:13). 

Run Away 

We don't have to give in to temptation just because it 
comes. Jesus Christ provides a way of escape. Some- 
times we have to get with other people and stay with 
them for support, or even run away from the temptation 
as Joseph did. If we do sincerely want to escape, we will 
find that there are friends who will care for us, even 
people who will stay with us. 

One new Christian, still troubled by the pulling temp- 
tation of drugs, always calls his Christian friends to 
come and stay with him for a while when he gets de- 
pressed. He knows that his depression could drive him 
back into drugs. 

Activity helps too. Roman Catholic seminary students 
are using practical wisdom when they spend their spare 
time on athletics rather than allowing themselves time 
for their minds to wander. 

And proclaiming who we are keeps us safe. Oswald 
Hoffmann, well-known Lutheran clergyman, once re- 
minded a group of ministers that they will less likely fall 
into sin if they wear their clerical garb. All of us who 
have put on Christ find the outward demonstration of 
that fact has a built-in safety feature (Rom 13:13-14). 

Still, most of us have asked, "What if I slip? Do I have 
to give up and stay in my sin?" And someone always 
adds, "You don't know how far Tve gone." 

God Wants Us Back 

No matter where we are coming from, all the evidence 



68 



GOD GUIDES YOUR TOMORROWS 



at hand says clearly, God wants us back. The story of the 
prodigal son proves that. God's love does not depend on 
what an older brother thinks—he cares only that we 
come back. He counsels and draws us with the love in 
his own heart, a love that wants us home. That love has 
him out on the road waiting. He may be waiting for 
someone you know right now. He may be out there on 
the road waiting for you. 

One of the most difficult questions Christians ask is, 
''How can I know that I am forgiven?" They quote pas- 
sages such as Hebrews 6:4-6, 10:26-27 and 2 Peter 2:20- 
22 as evidence that they may have gone so far from God 
that there is no longer any hope for their return. 

No one but God, of course, can say where backsliding 
ends or outright rejection of Jesus begins, but one thing 
is clear: if we are asking about coming back, then we 
are concerned— and if we are concerned, we are two- 
thirds of the way home. 

Some people, having fallen, worry that even if God 
forgives them they will not be welcomed back by fellow 
Christians. If other believers in the fellowship do not 
welcome the erring one back, then their sin is worse 
than the fallen. In every church congregation there are 
people who have fallen and come back. Whether they 
stay and go on with Christ or get wounded again by 
condemning Christians depends on the attitude of the 
members of that Christian family. It must break God's 
heart when someone who is already broken gets beaten 
or stoned by those who take pride in their own whole- 
ness. Jesus said, ''By this all men will know that you 
are my disciples, if you love one another'' (Jn 13:35 
RSV). 



/ SEEM TO HAVE A TALENT FOR MAKING A MESS OF THINGS 69 

Different People 

We are hurt, and the whole body of Christ is hurt, when 
we act Hke renegades. Anyone who has gone his own 
way in opposition to God will recognize the warning 
signs and change course quickly. 

When we are restored, God can and often will use our 
prodigal experience to help someone else. But he will 
do it only when he can use that experience in his own 
way, not when we call attention to ourselves. 

There is a need for caution here. Part of the difficulty 
in welcoming home a brother who has fallen comes 
when that brother wants not only fellowship but lead- 
ership. Satan knows who the Christian leaders are and 
he has been successful in tripping some of them. Then, 
when loving Christians have helped the fallen one to his 
feet, the recovering one has asked for and has often 
been given his old place of leadership again. Then both 
the world and the church find themselves asking, "Has 
God no standards?" 

Paul wanted John Mark as his associate and shows 
the love of one Christian for another in asking for his 
help even though John Mark had once failed. But Paul 
did the asking. From what we know about Paul's in- 
structions for appointing leaders ("Do not be hasty in 
the laying on of hands," 1 Tim 5:22), he would not have 
requested John Mark had that younger man been pushy 
or arrogant or assumed that he had the right to be a 
leader once again. 

When a twenty-five-y ear-old woman left her Christian 
upbringing, she made a conscious effort to go against 
all she had been taught. But when she returned, feeling 
the ugliness of her purposeful sin, she redeclared her 



70 



COD GUIDES YOUR TOMORROWS 



faith in Christ, went home to her clergyman father and 
hugged him. She is accepted and loved but she still has 
years of planting her roots in Christ to be strong, de- 
pendable and eventually a mature leader. 

We are called to be compassionate, called to have the 
mind of Christ which is a forgetting forgiveness, but as 
the Master did with Peter, we make the appointments 
to leadership on the basis of repentance and recommit- 
ment—not on the basis of ego or demand. 

The Trap of Telling All 

There is another reason to be careful. Some weak Chris- 
tians vicariously enjoy the sins of others. There are weak 
Christians who like to listen to the testimonies of peo- 
ple who have plunged deeply into immorality. They in- 
vite the prodigal Christian to ''share his testimony." 
They call it ''marveling at the wonderful grace of Jesus." 
Actually, they are enjoying sin, fantasizing, vicariously 
committing the same sins in their minds. 

That's why a Christian who has fallen away from the 
Lord and has then come back into fellowship has to be 
careful that he is not pulled into the publicity trap of 
telling all and letting others savor it. 

If you are a restored Christian, say nothing! The time 
will come when God will trust you and use your expe- 
rience to draw others to himself. Quietly, he will bring 
people to you for counsel. People with the same weak- 
ness or with the same sin will start crossing your path. 
You will not plan it or arrange it or even seek it. In God's 
timing it will 'lust happen." 

It's a special gift, a mark of his blessing, to be used 
to help other people. God wants to do it through you. 



I SEEM TO HAVE A TALENT FOR MAKING A MESS OF THINGS 



71 



But he won't do it if you start pointing to your dramatic 
release from gross sin rather than to the One v;ho did 
the releasing. If God uses you to counsel, remember that 
he is the real Counselor who is allowing you to share 
in the experience of seeing another person restored. 

Some people, reading something like this, may child- 
ishly think that they should go ahead and sin more, 
so that God can do more in their lives when they are 
forgiven. They may think they will have a more effective 
ministry because of their experiences in sin. It doesn't 
happen that way. 

God is a forgiving God, but he is not soft in the head. 
Only when we weep over our own sins can we weep with 
someone else over his. Only when we can feel and ag- 
onize with another— just as someone once did with 
us— can we begin to be helpful and used of God. 

Men and women of spiritual strength know that ex- 
cept for the grace of God they would still be lost. They 
do not capitalize on that— instead they allow God to use 
the fruits of his grace as he wills. Only God knows how 
to deal with someone who has fallen anyway. 

None of us knows what the other person is going 
through even when it seems we have gone through the 
exact same thing ourselves. Because people are differ- 
ent, even the same experience has a different effect on 
people. 

Channels by God's Choice 

But the Holy Spirit, working within the other person 
and within us, can listen and speak. God will use us as 
channels for his healing, redemptive work. Even from 
our own wretched experience in sin God can bring a 



72 



GOD GUIDES YOUR TOMORROW'S 



redeeming blessing for others. But only as God chooses 
to use it. 

Occasionally there are arguments that if a Christian 
sins he probably wasn't a Christian to begin with. Maybe 
so, maybe not. It really doesn't matter. 

WTiether we are coming back to Christ or coming to 
Christ for the first time, the prayer of commitment is the 
same— a confession of sin, a calling on the Lord for 
deliverance and a willingness to submit to the lordship 
of Christ. We must come to the point where we can say, 
"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, 
but Christ lives in me" (Gal 2:20). 

Whether it is the new birth or a return to the Father 
after falling away, the child com.ing home does just 
that— comes home. With nothing in hand, like a child, 
waiting and ready to receive forgiveness. 

And when we receive that forgiveness, we are no 
longer enemies, but beloved friends. And being loved 
people, we love him with everything that is within us. 

Never again will we want to do anything that will 
separate us from his love. That's why having been close 
to God and wandered away and then returned again, we 
know that he and he alone is our source of love, joy and 
peace. We no longer try to determine the direction of 
our own lives. The living God, and he alone, plans our 
lives and lives within us each day. We want him to and 
that makes us new people. 

We are no longer confused about who we are. We are 
his. We no longer wonder where we are going. We are 
going with him. 



6 



What about 
My Tomorrows? 



Would you have dreamed five years ago that you 
would be where you are now, doing what you are doing 
today? Would you have anticipated the world events or 
economic changes that are happening now? None of us 
can plan our lives, because we can't plan the direction 
of the world. 

We can't anticipate our tomorrows. Those who do not 
know the One who owns tomorrow are left to face the 
future alone. But even though we who do believe can- 
not see into the future, we know the God who owns us 
and our future. 

We don't negate ourselves when we trust in God who 
knows tomorrow. Rather it is a realization of self and 




back five years. 



74 



GOD GUIDES YOUR TOMORROWS 



the weaknesses that we carry into each day. It is also 
an understanding of who God is. 

As God plans our tomorrows, he uses what he put into 
us— our gifts, our experiences, our education— and will 
tie it all together if we are faithful to what he is doing 
with us today. 

It Happened to Me 

I was a pastor in New Jersey and a graduate student in 
counseling when I was invited to become a campus 
minister at Michigan State University. It seemed an 
answer to prayer— both for the opportunity to work with 
students (a real love) and also because I could continue 
the same graduate studies at Michigan State. 

But when I moved, that graduate program in coun- 
seling was dropped by the university. There was no 
chance to use my educational credits for a degree. At 
first this was bewildering. Then I saw what God had 
done. The practical experience of my psychology 
courses, gained through clinical counseling, was exact- 
ly what I needed for student ministry in those days of 
campus unrest during the Vietnam War. No one but God 
could have planned that for me. As a result, many young 
people not only came to faith during those years but got 
their own sense of direction and are serving Christ faith- 
fully today. 

Not knowing what else to do, yet wanting to keep my 
hand in academic work, I searched for a degree program 
at Michigan State and finally followed the advice, '*Why 
don't you study journalism?" That didn't make much 
sense to some people— a master's degree from a semi- 
nary and a master's degree in journalism from a univer- 



WHAT ABOUT MY TOMORROWS? 75 

sity are a strange combination, but it did seem to be an 
open door and there was no other leading. 

One week after finishing the master's thesis, my first 
book was in process; the second followed right after 
that. Then, invitations to write came from magazine 
editors faster than I could accept them. In each case the 
editors were looking for those two areas of training- 
theological education and journalistic skills. Yet, all 
during the days of classroom work there was no evi- 
dence except an inner peace that this was the will of 
God for me. 

Don't Rush Ahead 

God knows what he is doing in our lives and does not 
have to take time to explain it all to us. He leads quietly, 
efficiently and in the end puts it all together for us in 
such ways that we could never arrange or figure out. 

It is not God's way (probably because we could not 
handle it) to reveal his will too early. In his wisdom, he 
works out the details in our lives and in the lives of 
other people so that he can bring all the parts together. 
His will blesses each person he touches in every dimen- 
sion of life. 

And what if we decide to run ahead of God? Not only 
can we become ensnared in our own plans, we can hin- 
der the blessing for someone else who is trusting and 
waiting, and whose answer lies partially with how God 
is working in us. 

To rush ahead is to doubt the ability of God to handle 
our affairs. He knows our needs and how to care for us 
best. To shoulder him aside is to say, ^Tll be God for me 
because I understand me best. I understand tomorrow 



76 



GOD GUIDES YOUR TOMORROWS 



better than you do, God." 

That is an attempt to usurp God's place, and a few 
mistakes, plus the hurt that follows, prove that it 
doesn't work. After trying to run his own life, one col- 
lege junior explained the folly when he said, "I guess 
it takes a couple of years to find out where all the dead 
ends are." 

Our Own Careful Planning 

When a young family bought their first house, they 
began to enjoy the feeling of security it offered as the 
property appreciated in value. It appeared to be just the 
financial cushion they needed for their basic net worth 
portfolio. They carefully painted and patched and im- 
proved the house. They added a recreation room and 
every few weeks looked at the real estate ads to check 
sale prices on comparable houses. They liked what they 
saw. 

Then the Highway Department projected a six-lane 
freeway right through their neighborhood. Their prop- 
erty value fell 30% and they have a pollution-fomenting 
freeway outside their living room. 

When the bitterness and the '"Why, God?" questions 
settled, they had to admit that the house may have been 
too important to them. In subtle ways the house was 
offering to provide them with what no piece of real 
estate can ever guarantee — security. 

Unfortunately, for most of us it takes something like 
that to happen before we can agree with Scripture that 
no one can pronounce, Today or tomorrow we will go 
to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business 
and make money.' Why, you do not even know what will 



HTIAT ABOUT MY TOMORROWS? 



77 



happen tomorrow" (Jas 4:13-14). There is only One who 
is certain about tomorrow. He can be trusted. That 
doesn't mean we sit quietly and do nothing. It does 
mean that we walk closely with the Christ who lives in 
us. 

When a U. S. govemm.ent worker quit his job in 
Washington, D.C., to return to a rural lifestyle, he told 
friends that they had better not count on having a So- 
cial Security System when they retire. For some this 
created anxiety and even fear, others became angry 
about paying in money with no assurance that it would 
ever provide old-age benefits for them. But Christians 
who have a different concept of security can relax and 
keep on making their Social Security payments know- 
ing that they can never rely on any future structure or 
government anyway. The only sure foundation is the 
Lord himself. And their present payments are helping 
others now. 

Getting Away from Frustration 
A Ph.D. candidate at a Midwestern university struggled 
to get his degree. He played the political departmental 
lobbying games, got trapped into ''must" visits to the 
right faculty homes, bought the right number of drinks 
for the right faculty people at the clubs, and attended 
the right departmental functions and parties. Spiritual- 
ly, he gave all of his time and self to the completion of 
his dissertation. Worship and witness went on the shelf. 

But when he finally got the degree, he was miserable. 
He had hoped that it would give him status; it didn't 
even help him get a job. Then, slowly, as he watched 
others who had gone the same route and were contin- 



78 



GOD GUIDES YOUR TOMORROWS 



uing to work the angles (one even divorced his wife 
because she had not kept up academically and was a 
professional liability), he realized what was happening. 
He came back to his roots and through counseling and 
prayer rediscovered that only God can rule his life and 
his tomorrows. 

Frustration dogs the steps of any Christian who hav- 
ing chosen to be a slave of Christ insists on planning 
the life he will have within that slavery. 

Yet we do care about investments and planning and 
savings for the future because if we don't make provi- 
sion for our families, we're guilty of disobedience to the 
Scripture. 'If anyone does not provide for his relatives, 
and especially for his immediate family, he has denied 
the faith and is worse than an unbeliever" (1 Tim 5:8). 
If I do not work hard for the future, I am a sluggard. 
But I don't count on only what I do to secure my future. 

Having created me, saved me and called me to him- 
self, God doesn't just leave me to uncertainty about the 
tomorrows that I can neither control nor understand. 
He wants to help me with my tomorrows. God's word to 
exiles in Babylon is no less his word today: Tor I 
know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans 
to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you 
hope and a future' " (Jer 29:11). 

You Can Talk to the Heartknower 

In Britain, with unemployment high and mine closings 
making the future even more bleak, there are young 
adults who have never held a job since leaving school 
and have no prospects for having one. They are victims 
of an economic situation that is out of their hands. Yet 



\mAT. ABOUT ^fY TOMORROW'S? 



79 



during the three-year ministry known as Mission Eng- 
land with Billy Graham, thousands of these young peo- 
ple were publicly stepping out to declare faith in 
Christ— and this in places where church attendance had 
been in decline. They had come to a realization— forced 
upon them but no less real because of it— that no econ- 
omy, no social program, no government, nothing can 
give assurance. There is only One who cares about to- 
morrow because only One loves enough to care. 

Tucked away in the Old Testament, in a book too 
often ignored, is a revealing passage of Scripture. 'Tor 
the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to 
strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to 
him" (2 Chron 16:9). God is always looking for ways to 
support us if our hearts are fully committed to him. We 
sometimes say, "Where is God? I can't find God. God is 
not close. God doesn't see." But he is close and he does 
see. 

Psalm 139:18 goes even farther. It says he's up all 
night watching. WTiether I sleep well or am pacing the 
floor most of the night, God is awake— watching me, 
paying attention to my needs. It has always been that 
way. *'My frame was not hidden from you when I was 
made in the secret place. WTien I was woven together 
in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed 
body. All the days ordained for me were written in your 
book before one of them came to be" (Ps 139:15-16), 
God neither slumbers nor sleeps. 

Everything is open before him. He sees everything 
that I do. Peter in his first letter (3:12) picks up a verse 
from Psalm 34:15, "The eyes of the LORD are on the 
righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry." God 



80 



GOD GUIDES YOUR TOMORROWS 



listens as a parent listens to a child, bending down his 
ear close, paying attention, looking into the child's 
eyes, hands on the child's shoulder, intently concentrat- 
ing on what the child is saying. That's the way God is 
with us. 

There is a part of 2 Chronicles 16:9 that talks about 
our hearts being fully committed to him. That's critical. 
God knows the heart— yours and mine. In our English 
translations Acts 15:8 begins, ''God who knows the 
heart." But it's really like one word: "heartknower." God 
is the heartknower. You can talk to the heartknower, 
open yourself to the heartknower, trust the heartknow- 
er, 

'"What about tomorrow?" That's an unknown— no 
one but God can answer. But the question, 'What about 
God?" is a known— anyone can answer. God guides to- 
morrow, and he is willing, indeed desires, to guide us. 
The question is not, "Will he?" The question is, 'Will 
we allow him that opportunity in our lives?" 



7 

Peace— Getting It 
and Keeping It 

will I leave you " (Heb 13:5). 
Never? 

Can we really believe that? 

God promised it, but it isn't easy to trust in a blanket 
promise like that, not when life gets rough. And some- 
times life can get very rough. 

In our daily living, there is rarely any visible or tan- 
gible sign that God is right there with us. Yet, when we 
move along through life trusting his promises, and then 
look back, we find that he has kept his word. He did 
have every situation in hand. 

That's enough to go on, and equips us to say, ''Lx)rd, 
you handled things before. I'll trust you to handle 
things again." And, once more, he does. 



Never 



82 



GOD GUIDES YOUR TOMORROWS 



Some people, struggling to find the kind of peace that 
only God can give, trust themselves or their own clever 
maneuvering to get it. That doesn't work. Columnist 
Ernest Howse, writing in the Toronto Star, gave an ex- 
ample of someone who tried: 

"In the gloomy years leading up to World War II, a 
wealthy man in Australia foresaw with fear the coming 
events which were casting their shadows before. 

"He concluded that war was inevitable, that it would 
spread across the world, and that it would bring un- 
precedented horror and destruction. 

"So he studied how he could find a safe hideout 
where he could spend his remaining years isolated fi^om 
the dreadful reach of the approaching conflict. 

"He made an extensive survey of geographical possi- 
bilities, and he finally settled on an idyllically remote 
and lovely retreat, a tiny and sparsely populated island 
in the Pacific. 

"The name of the island was Guadalcanal." 

Of course, before World War II was over, Guadalcanal 
became the scene of one of the most destructive bom- 
bardments of the Pacific war. 

Running for our own shelter will never bring us 
peace. Every one of us, however, has met people who 
have found real peace even amid horrible circumstances 
by leaning back in trust on Jesus. 

And, when they get it, the result is indescribably 
beautiful. 

Watch a mature Christian die. Work with a handi- 
capped Christian on a project. Spend a day with the 
Christian mother of a child with a terminal disease— 
you'll see it. They verify what Jesus promised: "Peace I 



PEACE— GETTING IT AND KEEPING IT 



83 



leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to 
you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be 
troubled and do not be afraid" (Jn 14:27). 

Peace Is Not the Result of Power 

Some people, hoping to gain a little bit more spiritually 
than others, have sought the power of God rather than 
God, the gifts of God more than God himself, and have 
ended up accepting Satan's counterfeits. 

Satan can duplicate any of the gifts of the Spirit. 
There are witches' covens which specialize in healing, 
occult groups that speak in unknown tongues and utter 
accurate prophecy, and Satanists who can do what ap- 
pears to be the miraculous. People who seek power for 
the sake of power or spiritual knowledge for its own sake 
can get it from Satan. By comparison with ordinary 
strengths it seems unusually special. But Satan can't 
give what mankind was designed to need, which is God 
himself in all of the dimensions of himself that he wants 
to reveal. 

Although Satan can copy any of the gifts of God, he 
cannot duplicate the fruits of the Spirit of God. These 
are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith- 
fulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22) that our 
Lx)rd gives to those who trust him. And what special 
gifts they are! 

Struggle, Maybe; Presence, Yes 

The peace of God, which he alone can give, cannot be 
artificially generated. It is not just a feeling of bliss or 
tranquillity—it's a fact. We may feel peaceful, but it 
does not mean that everything will be going smoothly. 



84 



GOD GUIDES YOUR TOMORROWS 



Peace is not the absence of struggle or pain— peace 
comes from knowing that God is present. 

When the disciples were in their boat and a storm 
came up, they thought Jesus was off in the hills pray- 
ing—that he didn't see them. He was in the hills pray- 
ing but he also saw them and came to them, calming 
the storm. How are things in your boat? You may not 
see Jesus. That doesn't mean he isn't watching you. 
Peace is not in quiet waters. Peace is having Jesus see 
you— ready to come to you. 

With Jesus in your boat the anxieties caused by what 
is going on around will not get inside and swamp you. 
Rather, the anxieties themselves can become ways to 
peace. 

The apostle Paul, reminding us of the energy-con- 
suming drain of our anxieties said, ''Do not be anxious 
about anything" (Phil 4:6). 

At first that sounds silly. How can anyone help but 
be anxious? But look at it again. The apostle didn't stop 
there. ''But in everything, by prayer and petition, with 
thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the 
peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will 
guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Phil 
4:6-7). 

"Stop worrying," people say, as if just saying it will 
make it happen. But that's not what God is saying. His 
is a direct call to do something: Present your requests 
to God. 

In other words, when anxious times come— and they 
will come— let them be the reminder to pray, turning 
the anxiety over to God, dumping it on him. That's 
when he will give the peace, and it will be a peace that 



PEACE— GETTING IT AND KEEPING IT 



85 



no human being can generate, nor Satan duplicate. 

You may not get clear answers when you pray. You 
may not need to know answers, but you will get the 
peace. Use the anxiety for what it is— a call to prayer, 
so that you can get the peace— and then live in that 
peace. It is deeper, wider and greater than anything we 
can comprehend w^ith our ordinary understanding. 

What Better Can You Have? 

A Christian living in the will of God, experiencing the 
promise of Philippians 4:6-7, can be free and happy. 

In England's Lake District, at the celebration service 
of the Keswick Centenary, the Reverend Harold H. 
Cook, at that time the oldest serving missionary in the 
world, stood to his feet to give his testimony. He didn't 
tell the assembled crowd how much he had done for 
Christ, nor did he reminisce about the decades he had 
served as a missionary. Instead, occasionally lapsing 
into Portuguese because of his many years in Brazil and 
because ^'I think in that language," he told of walking 
with Jesus and said with a resounding clear ring in his 
voice, "Jesus is mine; I am his; what better can you have 
than that?" 

At ninety-seven years of age, he'd seen it all and cer- 
tainly knew the struggles of living. But he had reduced 
the basics of life to a statement about Jesus, and as he 
shared it even his face said, "Peace." He had learned to 
do what the Bible asks us all to do: "Cast all your anx- 
iety on him because he cares about you" (1 Pet 5:7)— 
and he had peace. 

Can you do that— "Cast all your anxiety on him"? 
The answer you give tells a whole lot about where you 



86 



GOD GUIDES YOUR TOMORROWS 



are with God. It is a surrender, a letting go, and it 
doesn't just come overnight. 

I came to this peace the long way around— through 
the back door—but I'm not sorry that I did. 

I was a university student when I accepted Jesus 
Christ as my personal Savior and Lord. And shortly after, 
I felt a strong call to the ministry. It was a clear call, 
but I didn't want to obey it. 

So I tried to dodge God, taking advantage of a busi- 
ness offer to shout down his call by switching my major 
to advertising and telling God that if he didn't want me 
in business, he shouldn't have offered such an attractive 
future. 

But I was miserable. 

My grades dropped, I couldn't handle the work, every- 
thing was going wrong and I knew why. Finally, in the 
quietness of my room, I threw down my books and said, 
"Okay, God, you win. If you want me in the ministry, 
I'll go. But whatever happens, it's all your fault!'* 

The misery ended, peace came, and I have never re- 
gretted that step. God has verified for me in countless 
ways since that this is exactly the direction he wanted 
me to go. 

Resting Faith 

Peace came out of that struggle with God. And as a 
result, just as I was ready to blame him for the failure 
that I was certain would come, I cannot claim credit for 
any successes that have come. The results of his owning 
my life have come from him, and whatever pleasure he 
may be deriving from all of this, it is hard to compre- 
hend that it could be any greater than the pleasure and 



PEACE— GETTING IT AND KEEPING IT 



87 



enjoyment that I am getting from it. When God takes 
hold and gives that inner peace— that sense that we are 
doing the right thing— it's glorious. That glory doesn't 
fade— it brightens with time. 

Our Lord gives more than peace when we are in his 
will—he gives a resting faith. It is a relaxing faith, even 
when everything is falling apart around us. In Jesus we 
don't have to be victims of circumstances anymore. 

That doesn't mean we will never suffer or face trials 
or even death— we may very well face all of that. But 
so what! Many a Christian has come through to whole- 
ness only when he has battled through the worst thing 
that he can imagine could happen to him. Sooner or 
later every Christian has to do that. I'm asking and so 
should you: What do I fear? What is crippling me? What 
is holding me back from cutting loose and living with 
abandonment this life that Christ gives me? 

Meet the Feared Enemy 

Think about the thing that you fear most and then say, 
"Okay, what if that comes?" After a while, if we are 
talking it over with God, the peace of God begins to 
settle the issue. We have met the feared enemy, and that 
enemy is no longer so terrifying. 

Who of us is guaranteed health or success or three 
meals a day or a roof over our heads or even life? Where 
is any of that guaranteed in Scripture? What is guaran- 
teed are the promises given to us by our Lord. He says, 
"I will give you rest," and, '1 go to prepare a place for 
you," and, '1 am with you always, even unto the end 
of the world," and, "Take my yoke upon you . . . it's 
easy," and, "If you ask anything in my name I will do 



88 



GOD GUIDES YOUR TOMORROWS 



it." These promises come to us like blank checks wait- 
ing for us to cash whenever we want to. His checks are 
as certain as he is himself. 

Not many of us would include the agony of a cross 
in our own plans for following Christ. But the cross 
came to him, and the servant is certainly no greater 
than his master. Nowhere did our Lord tell us we will 
definitely escape such a thing. But we are not called to 
contemplate it or worry about it. We are called to follow 
him. The disciple is a follower, a learner at the teacher's 
feet. He goes where his Lord directs without looking 
back. Peace comes not in choosing the path for our- 
selves, or avoiding difficulties or even praying for es- 
cape. Peace comes in being so close to him that his 
enveloping love surrounds us, keeping us. That's 
peace— even on a cross. 

Get It— Keep It 

He told us how to get it and how to keep it. He said, 
'1 am the true vine and my Father is the gardener . . . • 
Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can 
bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither 
can you bear fruit unless you remain in me .... If you 
remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever 
you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's 
glory, that you bear much fruit, showing your selves to 
be my disciples" (Jn 15:1, 4-5, 7-8). 

To abide in him is to live, but to be separated is to 
dry up and die. Peace is part of abiding. It is a by- 
product. He calls us to that resting position in himself, 
not to dominate us but to live through us. The One who 
does not panic or fear wants to live in us. He is the same 



PEACE-GETTING IT AND KEEPING IT 



89 



One who is coming again. What he gives now is forever. 
It doesn't diminish, it increases. Isaiah knew it. He 
wrote, 'Tou will keep in perfect peace him whose mind 
is steadfast, because he trusts in you" (Is 26:3). 

Getting peace and keeping it is not luck or a gift that 
only some have, or something determined by fate. It 
centers on one truth— Jesus Christ. He is the source of 
peace. To have him is to have peace, and to have peace 
is to enjoy the daily walk that means abundant living 
with all the purpose and happiness that he intended us 
to have. Some people will miss it, and that's too bad 
because no one has to. 

One thing is certain— you don't have to miss it. And 
maybe it's time now to find a quiet place alone where 
you can drop to your knees and tell him what he has 
been waiting too long already to hear: 'Take me, Lord 
Jesus, into the center of your will." 

Living in Jesus you will not only know the will of God 
for your life, you will have Life itself in the center of his 
will. There really is no other place to be. 



8 



A Second 
Look 



is something more! 
There are basic promises of God that stand like foun- 
dation stones for our life building. These promises have 
been given to each of us. 

Maybe these should have been presented in the be- 
ginning of this book. But some promises of God are so 
well known and we have heard them so often that we 
tend to shut them out. It is possible to overlook, even 
callously shrug off, the investment of God in his people. 
Had these promises been presented earlier some might 
have said, ''Sure, I know that," and then ignored them. 

The biblical record and church history prove that God 
knows his own and takes care of them. 'The Lord Al- 
mighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress" (Ps 




A SECOND LOOK 



91 



46:7). ''Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made 
us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his 
pasture" (Ps 100:3). This is certain— it is settled. 

When Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt, God 
was right there with them, day and night. As bleak as 
things looked to the travelers, God had his eye on them. 

Our Lord has made a covenant, as unchangeable as 
he is himself. He has always, without exception, kept 
his Word. We who live in the security of his firm and 
love-tendered covenant have the certain promise, '1 will 
never fail you nor forsake you" (Heb 13:5 RSV). When 
God says never, he doesn't mean occasionally. He means 
never, or he wouldn't have said it. 

These are not empty words— God has made a pledge. 
From our own experience and the experiences of other 
believers whom we trust, we know that God does not tell 
lies. He keeps his Word. We can say with the psalmist, 
'"When I am afraid, I will trust in you" (Ps 56:3). 

Coming to His Promises Receptively 

Maybe now, having gained some insight about finding 
the will of God for your life, and having begun to feel 
as well as mentally grasp that God does want to lead 
you, you can come to his Word receptively. God does 
want to show you which way to go and he has given you 
his promises to build on. These promises are as inex- 
haustible as he is. And, you can claim what he says for 
yourself. 

*'And surely I am with you always, to the very end of 
the age" (Mt 28:20). 

'Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely 
on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him. 



92 



GOD GUIDES YOUR TOMORROW'S 



and he will make straight your paths" (Prov 3:5-6 RSV). 

*Tou may ask me for anything in my name, and I will 
do it" (Jn 14:14). 

'"Whoever comes to me I will never drive away" (Jn 
6:37). 

'Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set 
you free" (Jn 8:32). 

''His divine power has given us everything we need 
for life and godliness through our knowledge of him 
who called us by his own glory and goodness" (2 Pet 
1:3). 

Don't stop with these— get your own Bible and keep 
going thoughtfully and prayerfully. You will find that 
God is very much involved with people. Best of all, he 
is involved with you. 

Directions for Tomorrow 

Sometimes even Christians argue: "But if I could only 
see into the future, that's all I ask. If I could only know 
for sure, then I would act with no inner reservations." 

But saying that is demanding that God cater to our 
own lack of trust. We cannot have concrete assurance 
about ourselves ahead of time for the simple reason that 
we do not have the mind that can understand ahead of 
time the circumstances in which those assurances will 
be carried out. 

If I ask for direction about tomorrow that I can know 
with certainty today, I am asking for directions that 
won't make sense to me. I won't know tomorrow until 
tomorrow. I don't know what that day will be— so how 
will I be able to understand my role in it? 

Even if I could understand tomorrow and the next 



A SECOND LOOK 



93 



day and the days after that, and see how my life's direc- 
tion fits into them, I would be so overwhelmed that I 
probably wouldn't be able to handle it or act at all. If 
any of us had known ahead of time some of the moun- 
tains we have already had to scale, we would have given 
up. But we didn't know. Mercifully God didn't tell us. 
He just prepared us, without our knowing that he was 
preparing us, and equipped us with skills and his own 
promise to enter those experiences with us. Then, later, 
we found that by following him step by step in the 
leading that he gave, the mountains were conquered. 

God doesn't want you to be a monument to his im- 
potence. There is no way that anyone reading the Bible, 
or listening to other Christians, or recalling God's faith- 
fulness in his own life, can come to that conclusion. 

Unless— we refuse to let him act. And that's exactly 
what some people do, even Christians. 

How many people have you met who fell in love with 
love, or fell in love with marriage as a dream and made 
their own choice about the person they married? And 
how many are struggling now? 

How many are violating one or more of the command- 
ments in order to satisfy themselves with the "gospel" 
of happiness that is touted as ''what God wants for me 
because I am his child"? 

How many scars are on your own soul from acting 
because God was too slow for you, knowing now that 
had you trusted and waited, the answer would have 
been there at a time when you were prepared for it? 

Will you let him have his way in your life now? That's 
really what it all comes down to. That's the only ques- 
tion to be answered, and every person has to answer it— 



94 



GOD GUIDES YOUR TOMORROWS 



every day. At each turn of the road that question comes 
and has to be answered again. Regardless of what we 
have done or haven't done before, will we trust him 
now? Will we let him be God? Will we commit ourselves 
to him through Jesus Christ who assured us, "I am the 
way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the 
Father except through me" (Jn 14:6)? 

Will we live and act by faith? We can lead a person 
into a darkened room and say to him, 'Tlip that switch 
on the wall, and the lights will go on." 

But if he insists that we first prove to him that the 
lights will go on before he risks touching the switch, we 
can't do it. We can tell him that the light switch has 
always worked. We can describe how bright the room 
will be; we can plead, but he has to throw the switch 
before he will really know. And, when he finally does it, 
we no longer have to explain anything— he knows. 

The same is true in finding the will of God. His prom- 
ises to us about his will and leading are clear. Acting 
on his promises is the only battle we have to fight. Once 
we act, we will know. 

God can lead specifically, even forcefully— or he may 
lead very quietly. But even if we miss some clear direc- 
tion, nothing stops. He is still God and can pick us up 
where we are and keep on leading— and he will. Even 
if we start late in life, he can ''repay you for the years 
the locusts have eaten" (see Joel 2:25). He is forgiving 
and healing because he is loving. 

There is no package that we can find labeled ''God's 
will" with our individual names on it. It isn't like a 
blueprint with all the steps A through Z clearly marked, 
even though God knows A through Z. 



A SECOND LOOK 



95 



We Will Understand 

He is God. We are not. We don't have his understand- 
ing, his infinite wisdom or anything else that makes 
him omnipotent. But in the end, when the many strings 
are gathered together, we will see the reasons for the 
loving careful leading he has been giving us all life 
long— and we will understand. 

When someone realizes— maybe after years of spiritu- 
al blindness— that God has been reaching out to him, 
and then responds, he moves into a new relationship 
with God. He did not love first, God did. He did not 
initiate the cross, God did. And at last, overwhelmed by 
the love of God that kept on coming— all the way to 
Calvary and past it— he turns back to that cross to learn 
what he could never understand before: *Tou are not 
your own; you were bought at a price" (1 Cor 6:19-20). 

Those who are obedient are no longer their own. Hav- 
ing been bought with a price and paid for, they are 
servants, sons and daughters. They do not spend all of 
their time in debate about the meaning of their position 
or asking questions about it; they live it. 

That obedience may result in a comfortable life, sim- 
ply because life is comfortable around us. It may result 
in a horrible existence, because life is a horror around 
us. But it will result in Life, life with a capital L that 
only God can give. It is a life that never ends. 

In Christ we have more than just the fullest life or the 
happiest life, or even the most satisfying life. These are 
relative statements— we live in the context of Philippi- 
ans 4:11-12 (RSV), ^'Not that I complain of want; for I 
have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content. I 
know how to be abased, and I know how to abound; in 



96 



GOD GUIDES YOUR TOMORROWS 



any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of 
facing plenty and hunger, abundance and want." 

But Always We Have Life 

As believers, the only life we have is placed in the hands 
of the One who asks us, in the words of St. Paul, to 
present our bodies "as living sacrifices, holy and pleas- 
ing to God— which is your spiritual worship" (Rom 
12:1). And when we do that we are able to shout with 
Paul, "I can do all things in him who strengthens me" 
(Phil 4:13). 

To the extent that we are capable of knowing any- 
thing about the divine mind of God, we are able to know 
his will for our lives. Any more than what he reveals we 
cannot know. But if we will walk in the light of what 
he has revealed and be responsive and not kick against 
his leading or argue with him, then we won't have to 
wonder about our tomorrows anymore. 

We won't always be trying to peek around life's 
comers. We can live, relaxed in the confidence that God 
guides our tomorrows. 

And, content in that certainty, we can reach out and 
take hold of a beautiful promise: "No eye has seen, nor 
ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived what God has 
prepared for those who love him" (1 Cor 2:9). 

With the childlikeness that Jesus asked for in his 
followers, we can look at the wonders around us and, 
ready for his best, ask with a smile on our faces and 
happiness in our hearts— and a bit of a tremble fi'om the 
excitement of anticipation— "Which way, Lord?" 



Sometimes 

I get angry with God." 



'I'm really concerned about 
what the future holds for me." 

'1 think that when God made me 
he made a big mistake." 

'What does God want from me anyway?" 



We know that following God is important— but some- 
how it seems so out of reach, Roger Palms has heard our 
questions and felt our frustrations. With disarming 
wisdom and true-to-life stories he probes our fears and 
challenges our longings for peace and purpose. Calling 
us to a new sense of identity, he introduces us to the 
God who guides our yesterdays, todays and tomorrows. 

No heavenly vision. No burning bush. Just a lifestyle 
of trusting obedience to a God who walks beside us and 
leads us into a future of wholeness and satisfaction. 

Roger Palms is the editor of Decision magazine and 
has served as a pastor and a minister to university 
students. 



ISBN □-fl77fl^-S7E-7 



>> $E.TS